Our 2021 Pilot Lineup!

We are happy to introduce the pilots registered for the 2021 Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival. Not only do we have our local pilots, we have representation from BC through Quebec. We anticipate our international friends from the United States and United Kingdom will be able to participate this year.

Enjoy becoming familiar with the pilots and their balloons so you'll know who is in the sky when we fly. As of August 2021, we have 24 entrants. That number may increase or decrease over the coming weeks as details are finalized. 

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  • Competitor: #1

  • Pilot: Dale W. Ritchie

  • From: Golden BC

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

HIIBF 2020 - Dale Ritchie

5 Time Canadian Hot Air Balloon Champion

Dale Ritchie has been a licensed balloon pilot since 1978 when he flew for sport, then began flying commercially in 1979. In 43 years of flying, Dale as over 4500 hours in the air noted in his log book. He has balloon licenses in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom and has flown in 8 countries. As a Certified Flight Instructor, Dale has trained many pilots over the years and is a balloon Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.

  • Balloon: Emily

  • Call Letters: C-FJAV

  • Type: Sundance SBA77

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - Dale Ritchie: Emily

World Traveller

Emily was built in 2006 and made her inaugural flight in Motegi, Japan at the 2006 World Hot Air Balloon Championship. Over the past 15 years she has flown at a number of festivals and competitions for the last fifteen years. You may recognize Emily as a familiar face from past Festivals in High River.

Discover more about Dale Ritchie's hot air ballooning adventures.

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  • Competitor: #2

  • Pilot: Brant Leatherdale

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

HIIBF 2020 - Brant Leatherdale

Local Flyer

Brant Leatherdale is a pilot from Calgary where he lives with his wife, Tara, and children and is self-employed. Brant mainly flies in Western Canada and has attended major ballooning events in the USA and Mexico. Having attended every Festival since 2013, Brant is looking forward to flying the skies over High River again this year.

  • Balloon: Herbal Magic

  • Call Letters: C-GHER

  • Type: Firefly 8B 15

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - Brant Leatherdale: Herbal Magic

Magic in the Air

Herbal Magic is a familiar sight at the Festival and will be flying once again. The bright green envelope is easy to spot from the ground given its striking contrast against the blue sky.

See more about Brant Leatherdale's wishes for the Festival.

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  • Competitor: #3

  • Pilot: John Phillips

  • From: Parkland County AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

HIIBF 2020 - John Phillips

Director, Producer, Pilot

John Phillips was introduced to hot air ballooning in 1986. After crewing for a year he obtained his license in 1987. He continues to fly recreationally and semi-competitively. A freelance producer, director, technical director and videographer, John has travelled across North America to cover a wide range of sporting events including world championships, the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. He has directed music and variety productions for well-known artists. Recently John has been busy televising Canadian professional rodeos. 

  • Balloon: Purple Haze

  • Call Letters: C-GSTK

  • Type: Aerostar RX7

  • Size (volume): 77500

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - John Phillips: Purple Haze

Mystery of the Sky

Purple Haze returns to fly in the Festival once again.


Learn more about what John Phillips has been up to.

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  • Competitor: #4

  • Pilot: Cliff Skocdopole

  • From: Condor AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021



Cliff Skocdopole's love of hot air ballooning began with a Father's Day ride in 2009. By early 2010, Cliff received his pilot's license. Cliff has flown in the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships as well as the Worlds in 2018. Cliff and Sheri, his wife of 35 years, have travelled to numerous festivals across Canada, the USA and internationally. Cliff loves ballooning for the peaceful times in the air, being at the mercy of the wind, bringing smiles to faces and meeting great people.

  • Balloon: Redee N Willing

  • Call Letters: C-FHIA

  • Type: Sundance SBA90

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport


The Red Balloon

Redee N Willing is one of several balloons in Cliff's collection and one of two balloons he will be flying in the Festival this year. Spotting her on the ground and in the sky won't be difficult.

  • Balloon: Northern FLights

  • Call Letters: C-GHOT

  • Type: Kubicek BB26XR

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Racer


Glowing Sky

Northern FLights is the newest hot air balloon in Cliff's collection and one of two balloons flying in the Festival. Also note Northern FLights' slender profile indicative of a racer.


Read more about where Cliff Skocdopole loves to fly.

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  • Competitor: #5

  • Pilot: Shane Lockyer

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021


Next Generation

Shane Lockyer grew up around hot air balloons with his dad being a pilot as well. Since getting his pilot's license in 2017 he has flown over 200 hours, many of those over High River. Shane is a familiar face at events across western Canada and the United States as both a pilot and crew member. Currently working as an automotive technician, in the near future Shane will be completing his hot air balloon Instructor Rating and Aircraft Maintenance Engineer certification.  

  • Balloon: Fishin'

  • Call Letters: C-FISN

  • Type: Cameron N65

  • Size (volume): 65000

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - Shane-Lockyer: Lil Cameron

Familiar Sight

Fishin' or Lil' Cameron is a familiar sight launching from the High River Balloon Port and heading out over town to the southeast or southwest. The blue, white, and red envelope makes it easy to pick out at the launch field and in the sky.  


See more about Shane Lockyer.

  • Competitor: #6

  • Pilot: Jennifer Podruski

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

HIIBF 2020 - Jenn Podrusk

Up in the Air

Jenn Podruski was introduced to hot air ballooning when she crewed at the 2014 Festival. The pilot took her up for her first flight and she was hooked. She pursued her pilot's license in 2017 and returned to the Festival as a pilot in 2018. When not on-call as a paramedic, Jenn has flown from various small towns across Alberta as well as Montana, BC and in 2019, the "Super Bowl" of ballooning at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. In August 2021, Jenn flew in her first competitive event at the Canadian National Championships Quebec. 

  • Balloon: Louie

  • Call Letters: C-FVEN

  • Type: Aerosport RX7

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - Jenn Podruski: Louie

On That Ship, I Dream

Louie and Jenn have been partners in the sky since October 2017. Wave and say "Hi!" when you see the colour splash in the air or at the Balloon Glow.

Learn more about why Jenn Podruski's loves ballooning.

Town of High River logo
  • Competitor: #7

  • Pilot: Jamie Kinghorn

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021



Jamie Kinghorn caught the "Firefly Bug" on his very first flight in July 1988 and began crewing the next day. Pilot training began in March 1989 and he was signed off as a pilot in May 1989. Jamie has flown in every Canadian Championship since 1992 where he was awarded Rookie of the Year. Ballooning has taken Jamie across Canada and the US as well as Belgium, Japan, and Thailand. The 2013 Heritage Inn Canadian Championship in High River inspired Jamie to continue growing the Festival in High River for years to come. 

  • Balloon: Eye of RA

  • Call Letters: C-GRAA

  • Type: Bill Whalen AX8

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport


Eye in the Sky

Eye of RA had a double-first with a first flight and first Festival appearance in 2020. Watch for The Eye in the Sky with a skirt and Firefly basket throughout this year's Festival.


Read more about Jamie Kinghorn's flying adventures.


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  • Competitor: #8

  • Pilot: Del Michaud

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021


Mountain Man

Del Michaud is just shy of his piloting golden anniversary of piloting having received his license in 1974. He has competed in several Canadian Balloon Championships and is a former Canadian Balloon Champion. Del's skills are known on the world stage as well. He has flown internationally in 15 countries and represented Canada at 6 World Balloon Championships. Two of Del's most unique ballooning experiences have been flying in the Canadian Rockies and the Swiss Alps.

  • Balloon: Pepe Le Pew

  • Call Letters: C-GXLU

  • Type: Balloon Works FF7B

  • Size (volume): 65000

  • Category: Sport

HIIBF 2020 - Del Michaud: Pepe Le Pew

Flying Romantic

Pepe Le Pew returns to High River once again as the near rainbow in the sky without a raindrop to be seen.


See what else Del Michaud has been up to.

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  • Competitor: #9

  • Pilots: Cathy Dudgeon

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2021


New Pilot on the Block

Cathy Dudgeon's love of ballooning began in the 1980's but she focused on career and family until 2013 when the Festival came to High River. Cathy volunteered as a crew member and became hooked all over again. Starting lessons in August 2020, she became a licensed pilot in March 2021. She is excited to achieve her goal of flying in the Festival this year. You may have met Cathy at an Intro to Hot Air Ballooning or Crew Training workshop where she combines her love of teaching and ballooning. Her sights are set now on becoming a flight instructor.

  • Balloon: Maryann's Treat

  • Call Letters: C-FRMN

  • Type: Cameron O-77

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport


A Dream Come True

Maryann's Treat is named in honour of Cathy's mother, Maryann. With the support of friends, family and the ballooning community, Cathy used the inheritance from her mother to purchase well-used but still well-loved equipment to pursue her dream of learning to fly a balloon. Be sure to note Maryann's Treat call letters so you can identify her in the sky. She is the older twin of another balloon in the Festival.

Learn more about Cathy Dudgeon's flying journey so far.



  • Competitor: #10

  • Pilots: Bill Whalen & Sandra Rolfe

  • From: Vankleek Hill ON

  • Attended: 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021

HIIBF 2020 - Bill Whalen and Sandra Rolfe


Bill Whelan and Sandra Rolfe are a long time balloonist and life duo who recently married. Bill has been involved in balloon aviation for 40 years and Sandra for 30 years. Sandra is a renowned extreme balloonist, holding 57 Canadian and 3 world records. With Bill in charge of transportation and moral support, Sandra is breaking new records after a devastating stroke in 2015. Told she would never walk or talk again, today Sandra can walk, talk, drive, and fly using accessible devices. Sandra and Bill spread the message Aphasia is a loss of words, not intellect.

  • Balloon: Miss Birdy

  • Call Letters: C-GNGZ

  • Type: Whelan AX8

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Special Shape


No Elephant in the Room

Miss Birdy is the newest Lighten Up Balloon Co creation birthed out of COVID creativity. Her design team completed CAD drawings in 3 days and the process of printing, cutting, and sewing over 1000 pieces began. Miss Birdy first inflated to life in February 2021 and received her Certificate of Airworthiness from Transport Canada in mid-June 2021. To give you a sense of size, the yellow bird atop Miss Birdy's head is about 3 meters high and each leg is made of about 100 meters of fabric. Learn more about Sandra Rolfe and Bill Whalen

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  • Competitor: #11

  • Pilots: Walt & Linda Then

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021


Five Decades of Ballooning

Walt and Linda Then began their hot air ballooning adventures in 1980 when Walt started crewing with the Calgary Balloon Club. Linda started crewing in 1982, the same year Walt got his pilot's license, and received her pilot license in 1990. Over the years, their travels took them to many balloon events. Walt and Linda can be seen at more local events in Alberta these days, including Raven AB every October. The Thens have hosted the Raven Festival for the last 39 years, complete with a spooky costume party .

  • Balloon: Big Toy II

  • Call Letters: C-GTHE

  • Type: Cameron O77

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport


A Big Toy Box

Big Toy II has flown at the Festival since 2017, replacing her predecessor Big Toy who retired after 30 years of flying.

Learn more about Walt & Linda Then's background and ballooning journey.

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  • Competitor: #12

  • Pilot: Richard Clark

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021


Fiesta Party

Richard Clark began crewing in 1989 with a fun-loving group in Calgary. The excitement of ballooning led him to get his pilot license in 1992 and fly a Calgary Balloon Club balloon. In 2001, Richard and Heather, his wife, wanted to further their experience by having their own balloon. Richard enjoys the relaxed fun of fiesta flying and views the competition component as a chance to use planning and map reading skills along with team work.  Coming close to a competition target makes for added excitement and fun.

  • Balloon: Our Treat

  • Call Letters: C-FGBY

  • Type: Cameron O77

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport


Delightful Skies

Our Treat in 2021 is the newest version of the original Our Treat acquired in 2001. The name was chosen based on what a treat is was for Richard and Heather to fly the skies in such a colourful balloon at events across western Canada. Make note of Our Treat's call letters so as not to do a double take with another entry in the Festival.

Learn more about Richard Clark's love of ballooning.

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