Honorary presidents

Xavier de Montgolfier in Gatineau

Xavier de Montgolfier, a direct descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, inventors of the hot air balloon, was chosen as Honorary President of the 2nd edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1989 while Philippe Husson, Ambassador of France to Canada, was the 1988 Honorary President.

His ancestors Joseph and Étienne de Montgolfier launched their first "lighter-than-air" balloon in 1783 in the town of Annonay, south of Lyon, in France. Two hundred years l

ater, Xavier de Montgolfier joined with other family members to found the Club de montgolfières de la ville d'Annonay (the Annonay hot air balloon club).

"To appropriately celebrate the bicentennial of this great invention, explains Xavier de Montgolfier, we just had to find a hot air balloon. With sponsor support, we managed t

o obtain one and founded the club to enable all balloon enthusiasts to fly with us."

Today, with six balloons and 21 members, the Annonay hot air balloon club operates in a very special manner. Its pilots don’t own the balloons they fly, since every piece of equipment belongs to the club and remains available to all members.

Don Cameron, Honorary President


Don Cameron, owner of the most important balloon manufacturing plant in the world, was appointed Honorary President of the 3rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1990.

Aeronautical engineer by trade and an airplane pilot from the age of 17, Don Cameron took an interest in ballooning in 1967. To Cameron and a group of friends we owe the first hot air airship in England, the "Bristol Belle". His newfound passion turned into an occupation in 1968 when Don Cameron assumed ownership of the largest balloon manufacturing firm in the world.

Today, his Bristol (U.K.), Harrogate (U.K.), Moscow (Russia) and Michigan (U.S.A.) plants turn out an average of one balloon per day. Cameron hot air balloons, hot air airships and helium balloons can now be found in over 50 countries.

Don Cameron regularly flies his balloons in situations that put them to the test. When he attended the Gatineau festival, he experimented a one-seat hot air balloon where the pilot sits on a chair fitted with a burner on its back and an envelope. The balloon is used for lifting off in confined areas. In 1978, Don Cameron crossed the Sahara desert in a hot air balloon and was the first balloonist to fly over the Swiss Alps, a feat for which he was rewarded with a bronze medal by the British Royal Aero Club

Alex Nagorski, 1991 Honorary President

Alex Nagorski, Chairman of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Association, has been named Honorary President of the 4th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held from August 30 to September 2, 1991.

Mr. Nagorski was Chairman of the Canadian Association for two years. The Association draws together over 200 balloonists from across the country. The attendance of Mr. Nagorski added a special lustre to the Gatineau festival, which hosted the Canadian Ballooning Championships that year.

The Canadian Association chairman has been piloting balloons for over 15 years. He is also a member of the Edmonton Balloon Corporation.

Rocky H. Aoki, Honorary President of the 5th Festival


R ocky H. Aoki, owner of BENIHANA, a world-wide chain of Japanese restaurants, was the Honorary President of the 5th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1992.

But Rocky H. Aoki is not satisfied with being a great manager. He also ranks among the great balloonists.

He was the first to succeed a Pacific Ocean crossing aboard the "Double Eagle V", establishing a world record. He entered the first aerostat competition held in the Community of Independant States (former USSR) and won against five American teams. He now adds the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival to his list of world-class events.

Hot air balloons have taken him to the four corners of the earth and have been widely used in his company's advertising. Festival goers had a chance to see two of them: one representing the BENIHANA chain, the other featuring the BENIHANA chef.

Québec's foremost pilot André Bilodeau, 1994 Honorary President

André Bilodeau, a pilot who pioneered hot air ballooning in the province of Québec, has been named honorary president of the 7th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

In 1994, the honor was bestowed on André Bilodeau, a Sherbrooke, Québec, resident and a Gatineau regular from the Festival's very beginnings. He piloted the Matériaux Inovaco pink elephant balloon.

In 1980, Bilodeau, Michel Auzat (Télé-Direct balloon pilot) and a group of balloonists organized the Association de montgolfières du Québec to promote ballooning in Québec and increase safety measures for pilots. Bilodeau, who has twice been elected as the Association's President, is an electrical contractor but also represents the "Balloon Works" and "Galaxie" hot air balloon companies.

Per Lindstrand, Honorary President of the 8th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival


Celebrated holder of world records for height, distance and duration, Per Lindstrand has literally revolutionized ballooning. In a public tribute to his hard work and ingenuity, the 8th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1995 has chosen Mr. Lindstrand as its Honorary President.

Lindstrand perfected his hot air balloons through numerous experimental flights. In the late seventies, he became interested in lighter than air crafts. Working as an engineer at Thunder and Colt, he propelled the balloon manufacturing company to the top ranks, helping it become one of the European leaders in product quality.

Today, Lindstrand owns his own balloon factory in Oswestry, England, and specializes in hot air balloons, gas balloons and airships.


Mady Smets, Honorary President

In 1996, Mady Smets from Brussels accepted the invitation to become Honorary President of the 9th Festival. She has achieved recognition as one of the foremost ballooning promoters in Europe. Founder and President of the Montgolfiades universitaires internationales de Bruxelles, Mrs. Smets has been instrumental in organizing this most popular European ballooning event, and has succeeded in getting active student participation from Belgium and other countries. Mady Smets is also well known in financial and pharmaceutical circles in Brussels. She has also been involved with the restoration of the village of Peyresq ruins (in French region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) by students from several countries, for the purpose of creating an international center for the humanities, arts, culture and science. Mrs. Smets brought with her to the Festival an exact replica of the original Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon.

Walter and Joan Grishkot

grishkot.jpgTo emphasize the long-standing friendship between the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Adirondack Balloon Festival (Glens Falls, New York), the Organizing Committee chose Walter and Joan Grishkot as 1997 Honorary Presidents. Both have managed the Adirondack festival for 25 years. Since 1992, the two festivals have joined forces to initiate and promote an annual Canada-U.S. balloon race in which pilots from both countries enter in a friendly hare and hound competition. Gatineau hosts the first leg of the race, the second event being held at Glens Falls in mid-September. A third country, Japan, is joining the race in 1997. The first of three Canada-U.S.-Japan races is being held in November at the Saga Balloon Festival in Japan. Gatineau will follow in 1998, with Glens Falls completing the cycle in 1999.