Team of 70 volunteers led by French manufacturer to inflate new Conner Prairie helium balloon Wednesday
Director of Public Relations
FISHERS, Ind. (Tuesday, March 17, 2015/Conner Prairie) – If Wednesday’s winds stay calm, more than 70 volunteers will help Conner Prairie inflate its new, 140-foot tethered helium balloon beginning in the afternoon, starting a new era of one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
An inflation team led by French manufacturer Aerophile will determine if weather conditions are favorable Wednesday morning; if so, inflation will start around 3 p.m. and may take up to five hours. If by chance inclement weather prevents inflation Wednesday, action will move to Thursday afternoon.
Today, workers prepared the installation area, filled and positioned hundreds of 40-pound sandbags required for inflation, rolled out and prepped the actual balloon envelope and readied for their roles Wednesday.
In December, the original balloon that opened in 2009 at a cost of $2.2 million reached the end of its lifespan. Museum officials determined that the time was ideal to create a new exhibit experience that shares the story about the first successful delivery of air mail in the U.S., which occurred in 1859 in Lafayette, Ind.
Interactive store fronts representing downtown Lafayette in 1859 have been created. Visitors can explore the science and technology of gasworks used to inflate and fly a balloon, learn about balloonist John Wise and details of his historic flight in Indiana and explore the science of ballooning today before taking their own flight.
Since 2009, nearly 91,500 visitors have experienced the 15-minute flight that takes them 350 feet above the prairie in a gondola.
The new balloon, made possible by corporate sponsor Reynolds Farm Equipment, was manufactured at a cost of $530,000. Construction of the new exhibit is estimated at $165,000.
Touring the exhibit is free for members and included with paid general admission to Conner Prairie. Flights cost $12 for members and $15 for non-members.
After successful inflation, the balloon will undergo a series of inspections and test flights throughout the week, as weather permits. If all goes well, the new 1859 Balloon Voyage exhibit including flights will open when Conner Prairie starts a new outdoor season on March 26.
Spanning 800 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park located in Fishers, Ind., welcomes more than 340,000 guests of all ages annually. Five outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces combine history with science, technology, engineering and math and offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.
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Conner Prairie is a nationally acclaimed interactive history park. Its mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiencing. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call 317.776.6000 or 800.966.1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate. Connect with Conner Prairie on Facebook at facebook.com/connerprairie, Flickr at flickr.com/people/connerprairie, YouTube at youtube.com/user/ConnerPrairie and Twitter at twitter.com/connerprairie.