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vPALMER continued from page 18 The sport of ballooning, though, has remained popular in this region, according to Palmer. By Palmer’s estimation, there are approximately a dozen certified pilots in Sioux Falls, and 2-3 in the Yankton area. Iowa has a much larger population of balloon pilots, because “it’s very popular in that state,” Palmer says. New Form Of Flying For two decades, Lillevold has flown planes and taught others how to fly planes. It’s a passion for the Yankton man, he’ll tell you. He doesn’t fly for work (though he started flying to work as an electrical engineer in Sioux Falls), he flies for pleasure — and yes, he would include his sessions as a certified instructor in that category. That’s why he jumped at the chance to help a fellow pilot two years ago set up for a balloon ride. Lillevold was asked if he’d like to tag along for a ride. “Why not,” Lillevold remembers saying. He went for one ride and was hooked. The idea of flying a balloon was so foreign to the experienced pilot. “It’s not something people sit down and think about it,” Lillevold says. But for a full year, Lillevold took lessons on how to fly a balloon from Palmer. An instructor himself, Lillevold suddenly became a student. “I like learning new things,” Lillevold says. “I found it to be a real challenge. Flying a hot air balloon was more difficult than I imagined when I started.” For starters, here’s what he knew about the craft: You add heat, rise into the air, let the balloon — “envelope” in ballooning lingo — cool down and come back to the ground. That’s a layman’s explanation, Lillevold says. “That’s basically true, but if that’s all you know, you’re going to be in trouble,” he says. Even for someone like Lillevold who has made countless flights of his own, balloon travel has still taught him things about flight. What might those be? Wind, Lillevold says, has been something he’s learned more about. “In a matter of just a few feet, you’re in a different wind,” he says. “In those narrow bands of wind, they’re not going 100 miles an hour, but they might be going 20 miles an hour. “That presents you with an issue.” Generally, winds are calmer in the morning and in the evening, according to Lillevold. But it’s still an adventure up in the air. “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it changes,” he says. Training At age 67, Palmer says he is nearing the end of his ballooning career. “I don’t tend to bounce as well as I used to,” he says, with a smile. That’s one of the most dangerous aspects to a balloon ride: The landing. Balloons leave the ground and don’t return to the same location; they can’t control where they go. “We have to go with the wind,” Palmer said. “It’s like a leaf on a river.” That’s part of the adventure, though, he added. Most balloon landings are actually controlled crashes; unlike planes which can land on a runway. “It’s the adventure,” Palmer said. Last year, Palmer was recognized for his safety record; or as he put it, “for going 40 years of fun without hurting anybody.” He was awarded the Ed Yost Master Pilot Award, by the Balloon Federation of America — the national organization. His safety record also includes the many lessons he’s given to people like Lillevold. And Lillevold says he can clearly remember moments when Palmer’s sense of calm helped soothe the student’s nerves. During one of the lessons, Palmer instructed Lillevold to climb up to 2,000 feet and level off there. “I shot past it and was up at 2,300 feet and struggling to get back,” Lillevold remembers. “He calmly said, ‘If you’re more comfortable at 2,300, we can stay here.’ “I just had to laugh,” Lillevold adds. “As an instructor, I’m usually on the other side of that joke.” Palmer’s experience flying a balloon, though, made those around him comfortable, according to Lillevold. “He never really got frustrated or upset with me, even when I did stupid things,” Lillevold says, with a smile. As an instructor himself, Lillevold realized that students may not realize how dangerous something is, but “I was still hoping Gary would come in and rescue me.” For Palmer, it’s been an opportunity to pass on his passion; to introduce others to the hobby that he fell in love with four decades ago. “In all sports of activities, there are people who like to do it, and then if you can’t do it, teach it,” Palmer says. “Maybe that’s why I like teaching,” he adds with a smile. vBy Jeremy Hoeck vLUKKES continued from page 14 For 37 years, his interest in helping children has also extended to charity work during the holidays, “We do Toys for Tots here too and that’s a heartbreaker. Kids write letters, you know, to Santa Claus, and some of them just want a new pair of shoes and a pair of socks. And then a lot of them put ….a list of what they want and we try to, with the money we get from donations and stuff, we try to pay, or buy close to what they want.” As for the older kids, teens and young adults set on a bad path, “I’ve known some kids that were probably going to go to the Big House if they didn’t straighten out, but they went into the Marine Corps and they’re making a career out of it because they’ve got discipline. You know, whether you like it or not you’re going to get discipline there. It doesn’t work for everybody. It’s not a cure for everybody, but it does help a lot of people.” Given his interest in the community, it is not surprising that the domestic incidents are often the most upsetting, and the most challenging part of his job, “You get a divorce and the father, by the court, he gets them [the children] on this weekend and the kids don’t want to leave their mother. Well, they have to cause that’s what the court says, and they’re bawling. That’s the part of the job I hate, right there. “That’s why you try to do like Andy Griffith, ‘let’s talk things out.’ No need to arrest everybody on the spot.” When asked, “Do they really call you Andy?” Lukkes laughed, “Yes. They used to call me Barney too, but now I’m the old guy.” vBy Cora Van Olson HISVOICEvJANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018v19

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