A History of Balloons,
and the People who Fly

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December 14, 1782 - Paris, France

The Montgolfier Brothers invented the first hot-air balloon and made their first flight. This unmanned flight was witnessed by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Montgolfier Brothers
November 21, 1783 - Paris, France
Montgolfier Balloon

The Montgolfier Brothers conduct their first manned flight. It is witnessed by Benjamin Franklin, the United States Ambassador to France at the time, who was quoted as saying about it "What good is a new-born baby?"

Balloon with Sleep Mask
1784 to 1960 - Hot Air Balloons Take a Nap

Within a year the hot-air-balloon was replaced by the invention of the gas balloon and the hot-air-balloon basically vanished from the skies for 177 years.

1960 to 1969 - USA: The Hot Air Balloon is Reborn!

Modern materials such as high temperature nylon fabric and lightweight aluminum propane tanks made is possible to build a modern hot air balloon.

Four balloonists are considered "The Founders of Modern Hot Air Balloons." Ed Yost of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Don Piccard of St. Paul, Minnesota, Mark Semich of Griffin, Georgia, and Tracy Barnes of Statesville, North Carolina, each started manufacturing balloons that took advantage of these new technologies.

Balloonists Ed Yost, Don Piccard, Mark Semich, Tracy Barnes

Within 20 years, more than 5,000 balloons filled the skies worldwide.

1961 to 2015 - The FireFly takes flight, and three balloonists meet in North Carolina

Tracy Barnes began his path to Statesville. He moved from St. Paul Minnesota, to Chester, South Carolina in 1963, to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1968, and finally to Statesville, North Carolina in 1973. Along the way he designed and created the FireFly Balloon. The FireFly turned out to be one of the most beautiful and innovative balloon designs ever produced.

Two other balloonists, Bill Meadows and Don Cline, worked with and supported Tracy for 50 years. Together, they had an idea...

2015 - Founding of the Carolina Balloon Museum

The Carolina Balloon Museum is founded by Bill Meadows and Don Cline. Planning begins for its home in Statesville, North Carolina.

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