At the heart of Hancock County is one thing: the community. The people who make up the community are unique and diverse in interests, backgrounds, and stories. Over the next few months we will be highlighting members of the community that you may see behind a shop counter, at an event, or in the grocery store and their stories. This month we will be featuring Phil Clinger, the co-founder of the Flag City BalloonFest and the pilot of the VisitFindlay hot air balloon!
When Phil Clinger purchased his first hot air balloon flight in 1993 with the intention of proposing to his now-wife he knew it would be life-changing, but even he couldn’t have predicted the trajectory it would play in his life. After that original flight Phil was hooked. He crewed for a balloon in Battle Creek, Michigan and even crewed in the 1995 World Hot Air Balloon Championship for a team from Barcelona. After seeing the competitive side of ballooning Phil became totally invested and began training, after which he received his license in 1997. From there, Phil continued to improve the skills required of a balloon pilot and has extraordinary stories from his ballooning experience. Among the most memorable was when he and another pilot flew a high altitude adventure and reached 18,000 feet over Battle Creek (most balloon rides hover between 1,200 – 3,000 feet). While the competition side of ballooning is what ultimately drew Phil to become a pilot and the challenge it poses to push him to become a better balloon pilot is his favorite part of ballooning, it is the ability to put smiles on the faces of nearly every person who sees his balloon flying is what he is most proud of. Ballooning is a unique and magical branch of aviation and offers many rewards to pilots like Phil as well as the crew, passengers, and spectators alike.
As a Findlay native and a balloon pilot, Phil definitely has a favorite event – Flag City BalloonFest! But it is especially important to Phil as it was his father, Dan, that came up with the original idea of BalloonFest in celebration of the year 2000. Dan approached Phil just two years after Phil obtained his pilot’s license and from there Phil, Dan and their families planned out the major details of the festival, which has continued to be successful since. Although Phil is not involved in the planning stages of the festival and Dan has scaled back his involvement, it is still Phil’s favorite event to attend and he invites pilots at festivals he attends across the country to come to his hometown festival and competition. Phil can recall great memories of growing up in Findlay, including the old amusement rides at Riverside Park, and looks forward to every trip home. His favorite part of the community is one that many share, the people, and making a trip (or two!) to Dietsch Brothers is at the top of his to-do list. Dining at Rossilli’s is another must on his list and one that he will be checking off when he is in Findlay for the 2016 BalloonFest August 12 – 14! While Phil recognizes that watching the balloons launch, fly, land, and glow is incredibly exciting, he encourages all to not miss the chance to go up in a balloon as it can be as life changing for you as it was for him! Paid Balloon Flights are available at the Flag City BalloonFest, register for yours today!!
You can find Phil at BalloonFest in early August where he will be piloting the Hancock County CVB’s Flag City USA Balloon! Phil also participates in several ballooning competitions and festivals across the country and he owns and operates his own aerial advertising and Hot Air Balloon Ride company, Altitude Endeavors, out of Battle Creek, Michigan. Book a private flight over Southwestern Michigan with him today!
Don’t miss out on other community members we have highlighted through the community spotlight series, like Bill Wolf, Jr. of Wolfie’s Nuts and Erika Dietsch-Brokamp of Dietsch Brother’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream! You also don’t want to miss any of the events taking place in Hancock County, check out our event calendar to learn more. Take advantage of the final days of summer by checking items off your Hancock County Summer Bucket List, visit a Farmers’ Market, or see how many hidden gems you can uncover in Hancock County!