Our 2023 Pilot Lineup!

We are happy to introduce the pilots registered for the 2023 Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival. Not only do we have our local pilots, we have representation from across Alberta, BC through Ontario. We anticipate our international friends from the United States, United Kingdom, and Belgium will be able to participate again 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 July 2023, we have 29 entrants. That number may increase or decrease over the coming weeks as details are finalized. 

  • Competitor: HARE (#1)

  • Pilot: Dale W. Ritchie

  • From: Golden BC

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

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 Traveler

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.

  • Balloon: Yoda

  • Call Letters: G-CIIE / P-HIIE

  • Type: Cameron Z56

  • Size (volume): 106000

  • Category: Special Shape

Yoda hot air balloon
  • Competitor: #2

  • Pilot: Jennifer Podruski

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Jenn Podruski

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): 77500

  • Category: Sport

Louie Hot Air Balloon

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.

  • Competitor: #3

  • Pilot: Graham Luckett

  • From: Fort Collins CO USA

  • Attended: 2023

Graham Luckett

Unusual sights

Graham Luckett began flying balloons in 1980 and became a licensed pilot in 1982. He has been a commercial balloon pilot for 34 years. Originally from England, UK, Graham has called Fort Collins, Colorado his home for the last 30 years. Graham feels fortunate  to have flown in 19 different countries and attend balloon festivals around the world. His most favourite place to fly has been Kenya. Watching the annual wildebeest migration from the air is truly memorable. 

  • Balloon: Tally Ho II

  • Call Letters: N42UK

  • Type: Cameron A105

  • Size (volume): 105000

  • Category: Sport

Tally Ho II hot air balloon

Target sighted in the sky

Tally Ho II is an easy target to spot in the sky being a 105 with it's bright mulit-coloured envelope. Tally Ho II has a sister balloon, a single-seat, pilot-only cloudhopper, aptly named Tally Hopper.  

  • Competitor: #4

  • Pilot: Shane Lockyer

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Shane Lockyer

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 300 hours. In 2021, Shane placed 8th at the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championship in Quebec. He is also a Flight Instructor and is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) for Hot Air Balloons. Shane lives in Calgary with his wife, Emma.

  • Balloon: Prism

  • Call Letters: C-FZIN

  • Type: Thunder and Colt 77B

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport

Prism Hot Air Balloon

Balloon of Many Colours

Prism is a beautiful barn find rainbow coloured 1992 Thunder and Colt Bulilt 77,000 cubic foot balloon. The distinctive shape and double rainbow of colours makes it easy to spot in the sky. 

  • Competitor: #5

  • Pilot: Brent Gordon

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2023

Brent Gordon

Fly and Fix Balloons

Brent Gordon is one of the newest High River hometown pilots. He got involved with hot air ballooning in 2013 at the first HIIBF and has since crewed for pilots from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. During 2020/2021, Brent took his flight training in Ottawa with Bill Whelan and completed his solo flight in February 2021. Brent holds an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) license with helicopter endorsements. He recently completed the Hot Air Balloon endorsement through Transport Canada.

  • Balloon: Black Magic

  • Call Letters: C-FJWV

  • Type: Bill Whalen AX7

  • Size (volume): 77500

  • Category: Special

Black Magic Hot Air Balloon

Magic in the Air

Black Magic is very much a family affair. When you see this balloon in flight, either or both Brent and Scott Gordon could be in the basket. As partner / owners, this father-son pilot duo share their love of hot air ballooning.

  • Competitor: #6

  • Pilot: Scott Gordon

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2023

Scott Gordon
  • Balloon: Magic Moments

  • Call Letters: C-GNHB

  • Type: Bill Whalen AX8

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Special

Magic Moments hot air balloon
  • Competitor: #7

  • Pilots: Linda & Walt Then

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Walt and Linda Then

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.

  • Competitor: #8

  • Pilot: Michael King

  • From: Sandia Park NM USA

  • Attended: 2022, 2023

Michael King

The "Southern Canadian"

Mike King’s caught the balloon bug late in life. A former US Air Force Fighter pilot, he was innocently lured into harmless crewing by his Canadian friends, the Skocdopoles and Clarks.  The next thing Mike knew, he was a full-fledged BALLOONATIC like his friends. Mike and and his bride Donna try to fly most weekends, enjoying the camaraderie of the ballooning community and meeting the enthusiastic fans at balloon events. 

  • Balloon: Upsy Daisy

  • Call Letters: N270VT

  • Type: Cameron US O-90

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport

Upsy Daisy Hot Air Balloon

Uplifting Experience

Just like the words of encouragement said to children, Upsy Daisy is a big, bright daisy in the sky soaring and lifting spirits everywhere.

  • Competitor: #9

  • Pilot: Richard Clark

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Richard Clark

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.

  • Competitor: #10

  • Pilot: Willy Taillon

  • From: Medicine Hat AB

  • Attended: 2022, 2023

Willy Taillon

Rising to a Challenge

Willy Taillon got into hot air ballooning in 2020 after looking for something challenging and different to do with his time. While living in Medicine Hat, he found his instructor, fellow Festival pilot Del Michaud, over the phone through the Calgary Balloon Club. Willy began his pilot training in summer 2020 and became a certified hot air balloon pilot in May 2021. After attending his first hot air balloon gathering, he realized how “uplifting” it felt to be in a setting that brought such joy to so many. Will is excited to be flying in his first Festival.

  • Balloon: Coulee Balloon

  • Call Letters: C-GVOH

  • Type: Cameron AX7

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport

Coulee hot air balloon

How Coulee is That?

Coulee should be easy to recognize in the Foothill's sky with it's distinctive blue and white stripes and puffy panels on the envelope.

  • Competitor: #11

  • Pilot: Cliff Skocdopole

  • From: Condor AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023



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 over 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: 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.

  • 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.

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