News 12 takes to the sky at Gainesville balloon festival

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GAINESVILLE, TX -- High flying fun can be had in Gainesville all weekend long. Hot air balloon pilots and their crews are in town for North Texas Medical Center's annual balloon festival. Morgan Downing takes us into the clouds with a family that has quite the hobby.

Meet our pilot Mark Protho, and his wife Dianne, who is crew chief and a Gainesville native. The couple has five balloons and 20 years of experience.

Our ride for the day will be Gizzmo, a gargoyle designed by Dianne herself.

After minutes, Gizzmo is blown up, filled with hot and ready to take to the sky. We took off from the Gainesville airport, with the wind guiding us.

"An ideal flight is one where on the ground the wind is calm," Mark Protho said. "You take off and you go up higher and you get a 10, 15 miles per hour wind, which will take you some place."

"It's very peaceful. And you can see foreve. You don't even realize you're in the air," Dianne Protho said.

For many pilots and crews, this weekend will be about competition. But, for the Prothos it's a hobby.

"For us it's just a fun thing to do," Mark said.

The Prothos have flown their balloons over New Zealand, France and Switzerland, while the Alps were a nice view, for Mark...

"My most beautiful site I've ever seen is the ground when it's windy and I'm back on the ground."

Crew member: "Mark, do you want us to be south of the highway in Lindsay?"

"That's my plan. There's some big fields out there."

With a large one in sight, it was time to set Gizzmo down.

There are 27 balloons at this year's festival. Tethered flights are still available for booking online.

"At this festival, you can get up close to the balloons and talk to us and see what we're doing and we love visiting. And that's unique because not all festivals will do that," Dianne said.

Concerts, food, and an airshow also offer plenty for everyone.

All proceeds go to the North Texas Medical Center Foundation to support the hospital.

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