U.K. balloonist makes a living flying high

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2008

NATCHEZ — For the past 12 years Andrew Holly has worked as a professional balloonist.

But for his first trip to the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, he just wants to take it easy.

While Holly will be ballooning in the race, he won’t be competing.

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“I just want to chill out and do this for fun,” he said.

And Holly has traveled a long way just to have fun.

Holly came to this year’s race from Breadstone, England where does most of his ballooning.

In his professional life, Holly works in aerial marketing — it’s like a flying billboard business.

His company, Exclusive Ballooning, flies sponsored balloons for companies and events all over the world.

But Holly’s no stranger to competition.

He’s won more than 300 ballooning awards and recently competed in the 2008 World Hot-Air Balloon Championships in Austria.

“That was a great time,” he said.

While this trip to Natchez was Holly’s first, he said he had heard of the race some time ago.

“It’s well known,” he said.

Holly said it isn’t uncommon to hear about the Natchez race in far off countries.

The race is known as one of the nicest events all over the world.

“People really love it,” he said. “And it’s got a lot of recognition.”

Holly said the Natchez race is also known for giving pilots an opportunity to fly across the Mississippi.

And while Holly said he’s not competing in the race, he’ll be taking a shot at the barge drop Saturday.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” he said. “You get a chance to fly over the Mississippi, it’s great.”

But Holly might not even be in Natchez if an invitation he first extended was not taken up.

A friend of Holly’s was unable to make a ballooning event in England so the invitation was extended to balloonist Matt Torgerson.

“It was a blast,” Torgerson said of the trip.

And when the time came, Torgerson invited Holly to Natchez.

Holly said it took him less than an hour to make his decision.

“I got here as soon as I could,” Holly said.

And though this race is Holly’s first, he said he’s definitely glad he made the trip.

He described his first flight in Natchez as “rosy.”