See our 2023 Pilots below!

With decades of experience at our festival and beyond our Balloon Meister, Bill Whidden, brings us the best pilots in the country!

Joe and Beth Hamilton

Joe and Beth have been flying for 35 years now, taking them from New England and Canada to Florida and California with many stops in between.  Always looking for new festivals and new scenery to enjoy while they continue attending their favorite events away from home.  

“Quechee has been one of those special places.  It offers a big challenge with the mountains and the gorge, and the views are spectacular.  And of course the passengers and spectators are the nicest we meet during the season.”

Darrek Daoust

“Every flight is a new adventure.  What is most enjoyable is the great people you are able to meet from all over the world. From Bermuda to the Azores, Cape Town to Moscow.”

 Darrek began his hot air ballooning career as crew in the mid 1990’s, but before too long, realized that he wanted his own balloon.  Darrek graduated from a 141 Flight School located in Park City, Utah.  Darrek is a FAA Certified Commercial Pilot, flying year round in Quechee. He has had the pleasure of flying in Italy, parts of Europe and Canada.

Bruce Byberg

“It was 1989 when I saw my first hot air balloon.  I traveled around crewing for the pilot and purchased my first balloon before having even taken a ride! Earned my certificate in 3 months and quickly was flying more than 300 passengers a year.”

“I’ve had the privilege of piloting the Fanta balloon (in Norway and Sweden), United Van Lines, Anheuser Busch, and Werehburg theatre popcorn bag shaped balloon. For the past 25 years, I operated the New England skies in the iconic Re/Max balloon accumulating almost 4,000 hours of flight time.
Some of my fondest memories in ballooning are the many flights with Paul Newman and his friends, giving children rides at Paul Newman’s special summer camps, and flying over the pyramids in Mexico and the countryside of Norway.”

“I maintain membership with the Balloon Federation of America, Great Eastern Balloon Association, Connecticut Lighter than Air Society, and Aircraft owners and Pilots association and Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association.”

“I love flying in Quechee and haven’t flown here in several years and looking forward floating over this beautiful countryside”


Paul Sena

Paul, from Worthington, Massachusetts,  “I started ballooning in 1990 with my wife Judy and sons Logan and Jared as faithful crew. Being raised on a farm in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, makes me feel right at home in Quechee. At this time I have flown over 2,000 flights through out the world including Ireland, New Zealand,Costa Rica and  United States. During the winter, I’m busy making maple syrup from over 11,000 trees on our farm, however summer time is for flying above the endless hills and maple trees far below. Once you have flown in a balloon you then become ” A bottom dweller in our sea of air ”  Soft Landings”

Don LaFountain

Don LaFountain (Owner/Pilot) started out crewing for other balloons and that let to his desire to pilot his own. He then went on to receive his Commercial Pilot Certificate. He has flown through out New England and in 2006 Don was a member of the American Balloon Team and competed in the 36th annual Irish Ballooning Championships in Athlone, Ireland. In 2007 Don started Misty River Ballooning located in Florence, MA

“I am looking forward to another year flying in Quechee, VT. We have had a great time every year and beautiful views.”

Greg Livadas

Greg has been ballooning since he won his first ride in 1978. He received his balloon license before his driver’s license! He has flown over the brink of Niagara Falls, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and even in the Alps in Switzerland. This will be his first time in Quechee. “I have heard about this great festival for years and have always enjoyed flying at other locations in Vermont, so I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing the sights!” A former newspaper reporter, some say Greg is always full of hot air. He now works in the marketing department at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Denny Wesler

“I became hooked on ballooning in 1982 upon taking my first ride in a hot air balloon. My wife said she knew that I was going to buy a balloon because I was asking our pilot so many questions. I became a pilot in 1983 and have flown in rallies throughout the US, Mexico, and Canada. I am Currently president of Heaven Bound Ascensions, a hot air balloon ride company providing passenger rides in beautiful Northeast Ohio.”

“Quechee, Vermont is one of my all-time favorite balloon events. The countryside is absolutely breathtaking. We have created lifelong friendships with many of the folks here in Quechee and always look forward to sharing our love of ballooning while making new friends.”

James Regan

Jim Regan is the owner & chief pilot for CT Ballooning, LLC.  He started ballooning in 1986, earned his pilots certificate in 1991, and has flown throughout the US, as well as in Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.  Besides flying regular shape balloons, Jim is an experienced special shape balloon pilot and is also an active competition pilot with numerous top-10 finishes to his credit.  He considers the Quechee Gorge and the green mountains of Vermont to be some of his favorite areas to fly.

Jason Boucher  

Jason, is a second generation hot air balloon pilot from Chester, NH. In 2004 Jason decided he wanted to take his love of ballooning to a new height and in just 10 short months Jason accomplished his goal and became a commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has flown in NJ, NY, ME, CT, MA, VT, NH and Canada logging in over 700 hours of flight time.

Andre Boucher

Andre first flew in Quechee, Vermont in 1995 with his Teddy Bear balloon and always looks forward to flying at the Festival ~ the landowners are terrific!

Andre Boucher’s love of ballooning started 36 years ago while on his way to work he saw a hot air balloon in Pittsfield, NH.  He began to crew and got his commercial pilot license on October 29, 1994.  Andre has over 2,500 hours as Pilot in Command and has flown in many of the states in the US, including Alaska, Montana and New Mexico. Andre has also flown in Canada, France and Leon, Mexico.  Andre  has purchased two new balloons from Kubicek and visited the factory in Czech Republic in March, 2019. 

Tom Handcock

“Quechee! This is as good as it gets! I have flown at this festival for the 25 years starting in the 80’s. I built the balloon I am flying in 2021. The largest balloon I and 30 other pilots have ever built was 2.6 million cubic feet, big enough to hold all the envelopes you will see here in 2022. It is great to be back after a 15 year hiatus. Soft Landings!”

Tim Strand

Tim is a commercial balloon pilot from NJ, who moved to Pennsylvania in March 2021. He flies the beautiful yellow balloon called “Sunrise”.  After flying airplanes for 11 years, Tim got hooked on ballooning in 1990.  Tim had made in excess of 2400 balloon flights, each memorable in their own special way.  Some of the most spectacular have been right here at the Quechee Balloon Festival.  “I’ve been flying in this festival since the “1900’s”  :-).  I have met lots of new friends there both in the basket, and on the ground.  It is an event my wife Clare and I always look forward to attending.”   

Returning to Fathers’ Day weekend this year hopefully will restore a tradition for him – when his son Pete can get time off from his job on Broadway, he loves to join the crew for the weekend!  

Tim is a self-employed technical writing and training contractor to the Homeland Security effort, supporting the nation’s airport and border security. 

Mike Fleury

Mike Fleury grew up in White River Junction and graduated from Hartford High School Class of ’67 and will be attending his 55th class reunion the week after the Balloon Festival! After graduating from UVM in Engineering, he moved to Denver, where he developed a love for hot air ballooning and obtained his license. He and his wife Becky have operated a hot air balloon company in Tucson for many years, Fleur de Tucson Balloon Tours. Mike has participated in the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival for the last 39 years, even winning a new Ford truck in a key grab event.

John Piper

John, pilot of the “Fire and Ice” hot air balloon, received his Private LTA license in 1993, his Commercial in 94 and his gas rating in 2016.  He is a member of the BFA, GEBA and the Balloon Club of America NC.  He was the Balloon Meister for the Hot Air Jubilee in Jackson Michigan for several years and since 2018 he has acted as Balloon Meister for the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning.

Professionally, John Piper was the Vice President and Senior Director of Macy’s Parade Studio from 2001 to 2020. As the leader of a team of artists responsible for the design and production of the giant character balloons and fantasy filled floats showcased in the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Paradeâ.

When asked why he got into ballooning, John’s favorite reply is “I’ve been trying to get off this planet all my life”.

Mike Olin

Mike began his aviation career in 1988 with a fixed-wing pilot license. In the late 1990s, he took his first hot air balloon ride and fell in love with the sport. After crewing for 15 years, he purchased his own balloon and added Lighter Than Air rating to his pilot’s license. Naming his balloon “Heaven Sent” as a tribute to his parents and sister who are now watching him fly from Heaven. Ballooning has become a family passion with his son and friends now learning to fly; he is passing on what he has learned.

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Paul Stumpf

Paul was drawn into ballooning through an interest in photography in 1973, while still in high school. His enthusiasm quickly led him to build a balloon at the age of 17, with the help of his high school art teacher and mentor, Brian Boland. In college, Paul continued designing and building hot air balloons and fabricated cold air “art” inflatables as an extra-curricular activity. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography in 1979. Shortly after graduation Paul focused on growing his hot air balloon business. It was at this time too, that he designed and built a few accessories for his own balloon; and as friends began asking for similar items for their balloons, Paul decided to make his custom products available to balloonists throughout the world via a mail-order business, which is still in operation today.

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Soar over the Quechee Landscape!

Tethered Rides

A Tethered Ride gives riders a taste of Ballooning while being held down by long ropes only floating up to 50 feet in the air. They are a great way for small children or elders to experience a balloon ride. Like all other Balloon Rides, tethered ride are also weather permitting. Each ride lasts 5 – 10 minutes .Tethered rides are available for purchase during the festival weekend only, no pre-sales, for $20.


Ascension Rides

An Ascension Ride or the typical balloon ride is between 30 – 40 minutes with the whole experience taking about 2 hours. The balloons take off together and soar hundreds of feet in the air, gracefully moving over the landscapes of Quechee, VT and beyond. The balloons land outside the festival grounds, end with champagne and transportation back to the festival. They are available for purchase before and during the festival for $290.00. All balloon rides are wind and weather dependent.