If you are lying on the grass looking up at the sky this summer and see a mammoth floating shamrock rolling by, don’t worry, it wasn’t that funny tasting mushroom in your salad, it is Don Edwards cruising around in the clouds in his clover-shaped balloon!
For Don, a North Carolina native of Scotch Irish heritage, Paddy – the balloon’s name is Paddy – represents two things - his love for ballooning (he owned a balloon business for almost ten years) and pride in his Irish connections.
“Since 1996, when I went to Ireland, I have always dreamed of having a balloon shaped like a shamrock,” Edwards told IrishCentral recently.
So for those of us not lucky enough to have taken flight in a basket, what is like to balloon?
“The best description that I can give is this: When I was a kid I used to lie on the grass, and I would look up at the clouds. I would envisage myself riding on one of those clouds. That's kind of what it is like; it’s like floating on a cloud.”
The balloon was purchased from the Canadian-based Sundance Company, but Paddy was built at their location in Firefly, North Carolina. Building Paddy was no easy feat. When inflated the balloon has about 140,000 cubic feet of air inside, stands 100 feet tall and is 80 feet wide.
Edwards’ maiden flight was a blessed one.”The very first flight I flew in Albuquerque. I flew for about an hour and I landed at a nunnery! They were ecstatic! The ladies came out and we took photos. It was great.”
Paddy, who is transporting around in, yes you’ve guessed it, the Paddy wagon, has flown both nationally and internationally in Australia and Thailand.
When Edwards took the balloon Down Under, he flew it at the nation’s capital in Canberra, and took off right from the middle of their Capitol Hill. “We were literally taking off from the Old Parliament House, from the lawn! Here in the United States you could never think of something like that happening, it might make for a really bad day for somebody!”
When he took the balloon to Thailand he did so in the middle some poiltical unrest in the country. Luckily for Edwards, who flew the balloon in Pattaya, the trip passed without incident, and he and Paddy got home in one piece.
Edwards does have experience of ballooning in Ireland, having done so over Blessington Lakes on one of his visits about nine years ago. Taking Paddy to Ireland is something he would love to do in the future
“I would love to take it to Ireland. I would love the opportunity. I don’t think that I could take it over there on my own, but if there was a function or someone could pay my expenses I would be over there in a heartbeat.”