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Hot Air Affair is this weekend

New to this year's Hot Air Affair balloon rally is Gus T. Guppy, a happy flying fish belonging to Larry Konash of Burnsville, Minn. The friendly fish is sponsored by Hudson House Grand Hotel.

The Hudson Hot Air Affair will take to the sky this weekend for the 24th annual hot air balloon rally and winter festival Feb. 1-3. The event is presented by WESTconsin Credit Union--Hudson and features commercial, regular and special-shaped hot air balloons coming to town for the weekend.

This year's theme is "Majestic Flyway." Special theme activities will be sprinkled throughout the weekend's schedule, including the Friday night Torchlight Parade when hot air balloon pilots will add costumes and fire by blasting their burners down the parade route.

Local businesses will host a new Walking Art Show and Sale, highlighting things in the sky over Hudson. Local and regional professional and amateur photographers have donated prints of hot air balloons, fireworks, swans, eagles, loons, bluebirds and other avian subjects for a fundraiser. Proceeds from selling the framed prints will be donated to Hudson swan enthusiast Barry Wallace to help feed the wintering swan flock in Hudson.

Framed photographs will be on display and for sale at Chapter2Books, SEASONS on St. Croix Gallery, Domino's Pizza, Urban Olive and Vine, Hudson House Grand Hotel, WESTconsin Credit Union, Bella Luce Boutique, Knoke's Chocolates, Dick's Bar & Grill, Elan, The Purple Tree, Dough Boys Pizza, The Ugly Sister Boutique, Lavender Thymes, La Rue Marche, Pangea International Jewelry & Gifts and Joyful Expressions. Several framed photos will also be on sale at the Marketplace at E.P. Rock School on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Photographers for the event include: Stan Tekiela, Jeff Bucklew, Bruce Bergeron, Tammy Wolfe, Margaret Ontl, Deanna Grigus, Marnie Marie, Gordon Dietzman, Larry Ricker, Don Anderson, Anjanette Conway and Keith Crowley.

Wildlife photographer, naturalist and award-winning author Stan Tekiela will be at Chapter2Books at 11 Friday morning, Feb. 1, for a book signing. Books will be available for sale or bring your birding guides to be autographed by Tekiela.

Highlighting the "Majestic Flyway" theme will be a show by the Raptor Center from the University of Minnesota and Native American dancing at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at E.P. Rock School. This is the second time The Raptor Center has visited the Hot Air Affair in Hudson. The star of this year's program will be a bald eagle, joined by a hawk, falcon and owl.

The St. Croix Dance Troupe from the St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will provide a drumming and dancing exhibition in conjunction with the Majestic Flyway theme. Most all Native American Indian Peoples attach special significance to the eagle and its feathers. Both bald and golden eagles and their feathers are highly revered and considered sacred within American Indian traditions, culture and religion. Some dancers use eagle feathers as part of their dance regalia and some tribes have eagle dances.

The Hot Air Affair is known for the specialty and unique balloons coming to Hudson each year. Specialty balloons are Airganic Garden, Gus T. Guppy, April Love and Freedom Flight V. Commercial balloons with full envelope banners will represent U.S. Bank and RE/MAX Results. Hot air balloon launches are set for 7:30 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2 and 3. An optional flight is at 3 p.m. Saturday and the crowd-pleasing Moon Glow or Field of Fire is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Hot Air Affair officially starts Friday morning with balloon pilots providing a media flight. Special guest will be Drew Nussbaum, regional tourism specialist for Northwestern Wisconsin with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Pilots will also visit several Hudson schools for ballooning programs and inflations, weather permitting.

The instant prizes button promotion starts Friday in participating Hudson stores and nearly 150 prizes will be given to those who match their button numbers to numbers posted at local stores. Participants include Abigail Page Antiques, Art Doyle's Spokes and Pedals, Chapter2Books, CocoBello, Elan Clothing, Dilly Dally Gifts, Grapevine Interiors "AT HOME", Knoke's Chocolates, Lavender Thymes, SEASONS on St. Croix Gallery, The Purple Tree, Marnie Marie Photography, Bert's Coffee Café, Pangea International Jewelry and Gifts, The Nova, Hudson Flower Shop, Applebee's Restaurant, Urban Olive & Vine, Massage Envy--Hudson, Dough Boys Pizza, Joyful Expressions, Digital Garage/Mac Xprts, La Rue Marche, The Ugly Sister Boutique, FreeStyle Yogurt, The Enchanted Atelier and Bella Luce Boutique.

Free Hot Air Affair buttons are available this week at participating businesses or the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce office at 502 Second Street, downtown Hudson.

Other Friday activities include the Torchlight Parade at 7. p.m., a concert featuring American Idol finalist Reed Grimm, geocaching, fireworks, live music, karaoke and dances.

E.P. Rock will be bursting with activities and events on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Hot Air Affair Marketplace. The craft fair is maxed out with vendors, according to coordinator Lana Sjoberg. More than 30 booths will be brimming with arts and crafts, food items, clothing, gifts and hot air memorabilia. Entertainment and special events will also take place at the school, including geocaching, crafts for kids, dance performances, musical entertainment and Majestic Flyway shows in honor of this year's theme. Marketplace hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Other Saturday morning activities include the annual pancake breakfast at the Masonic Temple in downtown Hudson, Up, Up & Away 5K Run and Octagon House Museum open house. The Walking Art Show and Sale will continue Saturday at numerous locations showcasing nature photography.

The Saturday afternoon focus returns to the E.P. Rock School launch field for the Minnesota Kite Society show, Smooshboard competition and ice carving. Saturday night activities include the Moon Glow or Field of Fire at E.P. Rock School grounds, Benefit Bingo, live music, karaoke and dancing. New this year is a Saturday night Taste of the Flyway Wine, Beer and Spirits Event at the Hudson House Grand Hotel with proceeds going to the OWL's Friends Group at Willow River State Park.

Sunday's schedule includes geocaching, continuation of the instant prize promotion and the 18th annual Chili Cook-Off. The Walking Art Show and Sale will continue Sunday at numerous locations showcasing nature photography.

Hot air balloon crews are needed to set up, chase and take down balloons. Numerous balloonists travel to Hudson alone from long distances and need local volunteers to help crew for the weekend. Previous balloon crewing experience is preferred but not necessary. Local drivers who know area roads area also needed to assist out of town balloonists. If you'd like to crew, call the Hot Air Affair office at (715) 381-2050, email or check in on Facebook.

Hot Air Affair brochures and event details are available at local businesses and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau office. Brochures contain 10 money saving coupons and the event location map. Check the website at Hudson Hot Air for a complete schedule. Follow the event on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and balloon launch information ahead of each lift off. Advertising with a complete schedule and list of participants is in this week's Hot Sheet Shopper and Hudson Star-Observer.