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Sisters reach for the sky

Sisters reach for the sky - (01-09-2021)

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Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Maria Victoria Cutaia, OSB, Pat Nyquist, OSB and Dawn Vercellino, OSB attended the National Balloon Classic in midsummer in Indianola, Iowa. Sister Dawn has family members who enjoy ballooning and extended an invitation to experience the event and go up in a hot air balloon. 

Sister Dawn’s family has ties to the earliest days of the National Balloon Classic. In 1970, at the bequest of organizers of the Iowa State Fair in nearby Des Moines, Indianola hosted 16 hot air balloon teams that gathered near Simpson College for an early round of competition before moving to the state level. Thus, the National Balloon Classic was born, and Sister Dawn’s family had a front row seat.

“My Aunt Dorene and Uncle Gib McConnell owned the local A&W and, along with other business persons in Indianola, encouraged the local Chamber of Commerce to sponsor an annual event,” she said. “They even had a balloon made with a design of the A&W logo and called it the Root Beer Float.”

Fast forward 50 years and the National Balloon Classic now hosts more than 100 teams each year and attracts thousands of spectators. Throw in fireworks, food and entertainment and it has become a premier event. The A&W is still family owned, and Sister Dawn’s family still enjoys the friendly skies with a bird’s eye view from a balloon gondola.

“My first flight was exciting,” Sister Dawn recalled. “The balloons were flying in competition to a certain target to drop an item. The balloons are at the mercy of the wind, so I asked (my Cousin) Tim why we were flying in a different direction from the other balloons. The other pilots teased Tim that he was going in the wrong direction. He told them he didn’t understand why he headed that way, but he had a praying nun with him. All of a sudden the wind changed, and Tim got to the target first and won the prize.”

Having the opportunity to gather with family each summer while inviting her Benedictine Sisters to join her has allowed Sister Dawn the chance to open up a whole new world to her community members.

“It’s a joy to be included and also for some of our Sisters to mark off an item on their bucket list,” Sister Dawn laughed.

As for Sister Maria Victoria, this was her first balloon ride…and it won’t be her last.

“There really aren’t any words to describe it,” Sister Maria Victoria said. “It was an incredible experience, and I’d love to go again.”

Learn more about the National Balloon Classic here.