Long time friend and fellow pilot Jim Duncan has been at Fred’s side each year since the balloon festival began. He will assume the responsibility of Balloonmeister in 2015.
Jim Duncan has been involved in ballooning since 1978, and received his commercial hot air balloon license in 1984. For many years, he owned and operated a passenger service, “Cloud 9 Balloon Flights,” and focused on his passion for competition throughout the United States. He won the Great Eastern Balloon Association Championship eight times and also won several local “Hare and Hound” events.
Jim likes to spend time working with Bert Padelt at Best Aviation Services building balloons for personal use and building gas balloons for use in setting records. He has had the opportunity to travel to Japan where he enjoyed flying with the “Fly One Team” based in Saga.
Since he retired from General Motors, Jim now spends summers in New Jersey flying, kayaking and riding his bicycle and spends winters in Venice, Florida cruising the Intracoastal Waterway and the Myakka River in his boats. He, his wife and his best buddy, “Squirt,” go exploring in the newest toy, a motorhome.
By Jim Duncan
In 1984, at the Quakertown Balloon Festival, I met one of the most accomplished pilots who would become one of the most cherished friends in my life. Fred Grotenhuis was a class act, a true patriot who earned the respect of others deservedly.
The first event of Fred’s that I flew in was at Vernon Valley. What an exciting experience for me as a new pilot. Over the years, we would run into each other at races here and there and Fred would often jump into my basket to fly in what might be considered “sporty” conditions. We had a common interest that bonded us and that was the love of flying.
When I was invited to visit him in Costa Rica, I felt honored and anxious to fly and to enjoy some great adventures in his new “home away from home.” It was quite a feeling to cruise down the river in duckies, to climb rocks in his 4 X 4 and to take off in hot air balloons early in the morning among the locals reporting to work in the fields. I watched him paraglide and the next thing I knew, he was teaching me to jump off cliffs and to be a part of another thrilling sport. Fred shared his plans to create the bed and breakfast that would be a testament to his adventurous spirit.
In recent times, I looked forward to coming to the Warren County Fair and to flying “The Monster.” I was happy to help him out at balloon events other than his own. It was a privilege.
Besides the great adventures, were the times that we would just sit around and talk about life as he imparted his wisdom in his usual, calm manner. I learned a lot from Fred and I will never forget the advice he gave me through the years.
Yes, he was like a “brother-from-another-mother” and I will always be grateful for our friendship, and I will always miss him.