By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
Sandra Turnage of Youngstown took a chance to reduce her “bucket list” Sunday by riding in one of several hot air balloons that lifted off during the Hot Air Balloon Festival at Mastropietro Winery.
Turnage, very excited about her upcoming flight, said she also wants to fly in a helocopter, swim with dolphins and see a San Francisco 49ers game in person.
Dana Emerick of Canton, pilot of Turnage’s balloon, named Wind Dreamer, said he particularly likes the looks on people’s faces when they watch the balloons take off.
“It always brings out a smile,” said Emerick.
Other Wind Dreamer crew members included Cindy Bitzel of Canton, who drives a school bus on weekdays and is working on getting a hot air balloon pilot license; and Carrie Justice of Lake Milton, an administrative assistant at the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Besides crewing on balloons, Justice, a six-year Army veteran who served a 15-month tour in Iraq, plays Roller Derby.
“I love this. Watching the balloons in flight is beautiful,” said Dan Mastropietro, co-owner of the winery on Ellsworth Road in Berlin Center with his wife, Marianne, and his sister, Cathy Mastropietro.
Dan, who was “an electrician by day” before the family purchased property for the winery 13 years ago.
Once a cornfield, the 14 acres has a 1-acre lake and three acres of grapes from which they make their wine.
The grapes grown at the vinyard are Frontenac, Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc.
The Mastropietro Winery provides live music Fridays and Saturdays and has numerous special events throughout the year, such as the upcoming free fireworks display Saturday.
Gary and Michelle Niggl Jr. of Austintown brought their children – Gary III, 13, Gabrielle, 10, and Grace, 9 – to enjoy the hot air balloon event.
“We were looking for something to do that is family-friendly and it is definitely that, said Michelle.
Three friends, Lori Stone of Canfield and Diane Merrill and Sherry Matricardi, both of Boardman, used the event as part of a birthday celebration for Dianne, who said they planned to sample the wine and watch the balloons rise. Sherry was the designated driver.
Among the estimated 3,000 who attended Sunday’s hot air balloon lift-off were members of the Vrankovich family – Coitsville residents, George and his wife, Kathryn, George’s brother, Rick and his wife, Debra, of Hartford, and Rick’s sister, Sharon Simion of Brookfield.
George, who retired July 1, 2018, from General Motors Lordstown, and Kathryn, retired from Delphi Packard, and who once rode a hot air balloon from New Castle, Pa., to Poland, decided to check out the Mastropietro Winery event because they “heard it was a nice festival and the wine was good.”
“It’s very nice,” said Debra.
Several friends from Trumbull County, some veterans of hot air balloon events, were deliberate about picking a spot in the shade to set up their lawn chairs where they could see the balloons as they were inflated and when they took off without getting fried in the sun.
The Trumbull County group consisted of Jack and Donna Creed of Masury; Howard Rust and Carol Wevers of Masury and Warren, respectively, and Tony Gagliardi and Cindy Horner of Niles and Warren, respectively.
And the Wind Dreamer pilot was right.
As the balloons gently rose into the sky, carried off by the breeze, and disappeared, people did smile.