On the first day, the crowd saw little more than a Lake Erie hello.
Rain slicked Cleveland Municipal Airport Aug. 31 as eager onlookers waited for the inflation of six hot air balloons. They wanted to see the one-of-a-kind spectacle — a balloon race. But the wind-blown downpour shut down the air show. The start of the world-famous Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race would have to be put off until Labor Day.
Started in 1906 by playboy newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett, the race offers a test of sheer endurance. The balloon that flies the farthest distance claims the Gordon Bennett Cup. (Still going today, the event starts in Bern, Switzerland, on Sept. 27.)
On the second afternoon of the event, The Plain Dealer reported 200,000 people craning to see as six balloons filled with gas, ditched their ballast and ascended over the lake, drifting eastward.
The favorite was the Goodyear VIII, piloted by Ward Van Orman and Alan MacCracken. Van Orman already had two Gordon Bennett Cups in his trophy chest. After about 28 hours afloat, he got to add another one. Drafts buffeted the Goodyear VIII all the way from Cleveland to Canton, Massachusetts, a town south of Boston. The meandering journey spanned about 540 miles.