The year is 1976 and time again for the Indiana State Fair. It’s on his way to work that Gary Tarter Sr. sees a balloon out flying.
Three hours later and Tarter Sr. finds himself at the landing zone, invited to attend the flights that weekend, and looking forward to flying in his first hot air balloon.
Three months later Gary had bought his own balloon. At that point on he never stopped flying.
“He loved it as much the day he died as when he first started,” claimed Gary Tarter Jr.
“I thought it’d be like a passing fancy, but no,” recalled Linda Tarter, wife of Gary Tarter Sr. and mother of Gary Tarter Jr.
Unlike many balloon enthusiasts, Tarter Sr. had a full time job and was only able to balloon on the weekends.
Tarter Sr. looked forward to being retired and flying in his balloon whenever he wanted.
Albuquerque, NM and Forest Park, MO were among Tarter Sr.’s favorite locations to fly.
In almost every location that the Tarter family flew there was a crew waiting for them, welcoming them back like family.
Tarter Sr. was an easy-going captain, one of the reasons all of his crews loved to fly with him.
There was a good reason for that easy-going demeanor: he loved flying.
“This was his salvation,” reflected Tarter Jr. “To see my dad so happy and have that life that he always wanted up until his very last day was the best part.”
Since age nine Tarter Jr. had grown up with ballooning.
He looked forward to weekends of ballooning because that’s when he’d get to see and play with his friends.
“We’d tell my son we were going to a ballooning race or event,” said Linda Tarter, “and he’d say “Who’s going to be there?””
Families knew each other, the children played together, and the Tarter family loved the atmosphere it created.
It was and is truly a tight knit family event, and something that Gary Tarter Sr. enjoyed until the day he died.