CANTON, Miss. (WJTV) – The day starts early for hot air balloon pilot Eric Wiggins’ crew.

Eric and his passenger for the day, Eddie McCurdy, are sending up the trial balloon to get a fix on the direction of the upper air currents. Riding the air currents is the only way to steer a balloon, but the only way to get it up to begin with is to have a bunch of friends to help.

“Why else are you going to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I’m not a morning person,” said Sherry Veal.

Her husband, Chris, is a crew member, too. 

“I enjoy the early mornings. I was a runner years ago and unfortunately my feet gave out. So I found a new early morning activity,” said Chris Veal.

The biggest reason why they do this is the camaraderie. Patrick Wiggins is the pilot’s brother.

“It’s the camaraderie with everybody. It’s the family that you make. We say that it’s not just friends that do this, it’s a found family,” said Patrick.

It’s like a church group, well, in the fellowship sense. Eric Wiggins, the pilot, is the youngest hot air balloon pilot in Mississippi by some 30 years on average. Don’t know the reason for the gap, but his crew, Ballooning Mississippi, is recruiting more younger people to join in. You’ll love it if you like making forever friends.

“It’s such a group activity. You have to have a really close knit group of friends to make a flight like this happen. It’s the camaraderie, I guess,” said Eric.

Eddie McCurdy is a pilot-in-training. He already bought his own balloon and is working on his license. 

“It’s just a great, great sport. It’s a very family oriented sport with all these guys. They’re more than just friends. They’re my family now,” said McCurdy.

Well, it takes a family to launch the balloon into the air. A magic carpet with just room for two, but the crew dutifully follows in the chase vehicle and trailer just like the shadow chases after the balloon along the ground as it floats past. And then after only a few minutes of magic when compared with the time it takes to put to put it up, the balloon comes back home. The family gathers and packs it up and puts it away until next time which can’t be soon enough for this band of brothers and sisters. 

The next chance you’ll get to see hot air balloons is in the middle of October in Natchez.