Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - September 03, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - September 03, 2011
Crowne of Maine Balloon Fest Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams in Conversation with Derik Smith, Balloon Coordinator and Joel Jones, Balloon Pilot, on the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest in Presque Isle, Maine; Accommodation in Presque Isle, Maine with Local Hotelier Robb Miller; Exciting Opportunities for Vacation at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont with Owner Sam Von Trapp.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

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Derik Smith, Balloon Coordinator, Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org

Travel Expert and Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams broadcasts on location from Presque Isle, Maine, a picturesque and beautiful town home to the annual Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, a hot air balloon flying festival. Encouraging travelers who may be inclined to only explore major cities, Stephanie suggests visiting outside the cities of any country in order to truly learn the place. She feels that Presque Isle, Maine is an excellent example of beautiful countryside that gives a beautiful and unique representation of Maine for any traveler.

Stephanie welcomes Derik Smith, Balloon Coordinator for the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest in Presque Isle, Maine, a town Stephanie laughingly describes as “surrounded by Canada no matter which direction you turn.” Derik has been involved with the Balloon Fest since its inception in 2004. In 2006 he became chair of the festival and named the event to reflect the county’s nickname, “the Crown of Maine”. His current job is as the festival’s Pilot Coordinator. In this capacity he contacts pilots to participate, seeking out balloon pilots with safe and positive past flying experience, and of course adhering to an important basic tenet of the event: “to fill the sky with color”, as he explains.

Derik’s committee was formed under the Presque Isle Chamber in partnership with the local Lions’ Club. People from all across the community are actively involved in the event planning not only for the Balloon Fest but for other public festivals and celebrations, and coordination amongst community groups and nonprofits is encouraged. Their overall goal is to create and provide events for the public to enjoy and to benefit the community.

Derik says that pilots from all over the United States and even Canada come to Presque Isle to fly in the Balloon Fest and end up enjoying and appreciating the gorgeous Maine countryside scenery while they’re at it. One pilot from Albuquerque became so enamored with Presque Isle and Maine that he bought a house in the area after flying in the festival one year.

Answering Stephanie’s inquiry as to the logistics of pilot participation in the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, Derik explains that pilots bring their own balloons and gear to the festival, and often their own “chase crew”. A chase crew consists of the people who work on the mechanics of balloon flight, including inflating the balloon, assisting in the launch, and picking up the fliers when the flight is done. “Regardless of what tree you may be in,” Stephanie quips.

Other events in coordination with the Balloon Fest include a music festival, food, craft activities. Community members are encouraged to be as active as possible in the staging of the festivals, bringing much local passion to the events. Derik mentions that “Paint Presque Isle” is another popular event that has been running annually for several years and is sponsored in partnership with a local arts support group, Partners in the Arts. Artists are invited to come to Presque Isle, immerse themselves in the local culture, and paint in the community during the day of the festival. The fresh painting is live auctioned that very evening at a dinner and cocktail event.

This reminds Stephanie of a company called Cow Painters, and she mentions a cooperation with them as a potential fundraiser idea for the Presque Isle arts community. In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where “Travel with Stephanie Abrams!” regularly broadcasts, Stephanie applied the company’s concept by commissioning artists to paint sheep. She suggests that painting and decorating shapes of animals or balloons could be very beneficial to Presque Isle’s many events and charities by advertising the festival and eventually being auctioned.

The conversation concludes on a happy note when Derik tells Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams that his best experience as pilot coordinator is “when all the work is done and I actually get to get in my balloon and go for a ride.”

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13380

For more information visit www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org


Link to this segment

Joel Jones, Balloon Pilot, Alabama, USA.
www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams then welcomes Joel Jones, a native of Seale, Alabama, who arrived in Presque Isle after spending two weeks traveling and participating in a hot air balloon festival in the Alsace, Lorraine area of France. Joel has been piloting since 2002, and says that he began piloting simply because “it’s just beautiful”. He attended an annual balloon festival in Albuquerque and became “smitten”, returning home to Seale, Alabama (near Columbus, Georgia on the banks of the Chattahoochee River) determined to learn the art of balloon piloting. His newfound interest led him to attend a festival at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, where he mingled with pilots and, as luck would have it, found one willing to train him in the art of flying.

When Stephanie asks about Joel’s family’s feelings towards his participation in such a dangerous sport, he counters that ballooning is not in fact dangerous and according to him is “the oldest and safest form of aviation known to man”. Stephanie adds that this may be so, but only “as long as you don’t wrap yourself around a tree”.

Joel has some advice for listeners who may be inspired by the story of his entry into the ballooning field, and who may now be in a position he once found himself in, that of wanting to become pilots: “Just be careful!” He recommends Part 141 piloting schools that are sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration to fast track the official pilot training. Even a fast track to training requires a somewhat lengthy time commitment, as was the case for Joel. Obtaining certification can take up to a year and half due to factors such as inclement weather.

Regarding obtrusive natural and weather related factors, Joel advises that surface winds should not be more than five to seven miles an hour for a balloon to take flight. Seven miles an hour is the absolute cutoff, anything higher is not permissible. Joel says that if the wind picks up midair, as a pilot you can only “do the best you can”. Pilots are very cautious and don’t take unnecessary risks in order to maintain a positive safety record. If winds pick up, Joel advises that the most important factor to consider is finding a large enough field to negotiate landing. A high wind situation necessitating a fast landing plus too small of a landing space are the biggest factors that could potentially lead to difficulty as a balloon pilot.

Joel has a small ballooning event planned in Mancos, Colorado before moving on to another Albuquerque, New Mexico where he'll be participating as a pilot. For his trip to a recent French ballooning festival, Joel arrived with a friend and fellow pilot from Canada in Paris. They took a train to the French town of Metz and then traveled on to Chambley-Bussieres in Lorraine, where the 12th Lorraine World Air Balloon Festival was taking place. Joel reveals that the fabric of his balloon, called the envelope, was shipped to Paris and he used a basket and burners borrowed from an English pilot while in France. Over 300 balloonists attended the festival this year, helping to set a new world record for the most hot air balloons standing at one time: 344 in one field, hailing from all over Europe, the United States, and Australia.

Joel had a nine mile designated radius from an abandoned air force base that had been developed and turned into a meeting ground and launching area for a variety of air sports. Stephanie adds that this is a smart and community beneficial use of resources. He says that so-called “launch directors” use hand signals to let participating pilots know when they can lift off safely without interference from already in-flight balloons. No language barrier existed at the French festival! Joel reports that the terrain covered on his French flight was a mixture of valleys, hills, and many trees, and that the flight itself was beautiful.

The dates for next year’s Crown of Maine Balloon Fest are August 23 through August 26, 2012.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13381

For more information visit www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org


Fun Facts:

The Crown of Maine Balloon Fest is always held annually during the last weekend of August.

Stephanie says that the moose crossing signs on I-95 in and around Presque Isle are the “sexiest” that she’s seen and are worth slowing down to photograph.


Travel Tips:

Presque Isle, Maine is a convenient jumping off point to travel across the border to Canada. Its close proximity affords easy access should you like to continue your travels there.


Guests Include:

Derik Smith, Balloon Coordinator, Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org

Joel Jones, Balloon Pilot, Alabama, USA.
www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Robb Miller, Operations Manager, Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
www.presqueisleinn.com
www.caribouinn.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams explores and discusses lodging options in beautiful, picturesque Presque Isle, Maine, situated approximately twenty minutes east of the Canadian border. Driving to the town, visitors will witness the most northern point of I-95. But if travelers are not quite ready to venture to Canada yet and would like to spend a night or more in Presque Isle, Stephanie hosts Robb Miller, the Operations Manager of the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center to give some information about available facilities.

Robb says that about 120 rooms are offered in the Inn & Convention Center, with facilities supporting events ranging from twenty to five hundred guests. These facilities include a full conference center, banquet kitchen, full catering services, indoor pools, a fitness center, and bar facilities, with just under 5,000 square feet of banquet space. Events that are commonly hosted at the center include weddings, conferences, and trade shows, but Robb assures that the hospitable facilities are open to accommodate any and every kind of event.

Situated twenty minutes north of the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center is the Caribou Inn, another property owned by the same hoteliers. Here guests are accommodated in seventy-two rooms and treated to equally spacious banquet facilities. Both inns are full of helpful amenities catering to travelers’ needs, including free wireless internet, complementary newspapers, breakfast, long distance phone calls, and parking.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams points out the convenience and money savings these add up to, as they are often not included in the price of an overnight stay for travelers. She estimates an extra forty to fifty dollar savings from their inclusion and thus cites the Presque Isle Inn and Caribou Inn as being good economical values. Robb agrees, and adds, “We want our customers to be satisfied when they check out.” The inns’ restaurants are another high quality and economically valuable amenity. They feature an excellent Italian menu alongside offerings from other international cuisines. Robb points out that the weekend special is prime rib.

Stephanie asks Robb about the common sight of fishing in the advertising and photos of the area, and he confirms that this is a popular and easily accessible pastime for visitors to the region. He shares that a river runs through Presque Isle and is a popular destination for those wanting to try their luck at fishing in the town. The river is called the Aroostook, and the name is a Native American word meaning “beautiful river”.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13382

For more information visit www.presqueisleinn.com and www.caribouinn.com


Link to this segment

Sam Von Trapp, Vice President, Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont, USA.
www.trappfamily.com

Travel Expert and Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams wraps up the discussion of attractions in Presque Isle by mentioning that the region features not only the end of I-95 but the end of US-1, which when followed to the end concludes in New Brunswick, Canada. Stephanie mentions the town of Grand Falls in this area as being particularly notable for its attractive waterfalls. “It was worth the drive and the feeling of the difference in culture,” she adds in reference to her road trip from Maine to New Brunswick.

Another scenic option for travelers to absorb the natural bounty of the area is to take a leisurely drive through New England, cutting through Vermont and ending in Massachusetts. To give some ideas for a possible stop, Stephanie welcomes friend and former guest Sam Von Trapp, owner of the hotel the Trapp Family Lodge, situated on Twenty-five thousand acres of land in Stowe, Vermont and equipped with everything necessary for a delightfully busy family vacation.

In Sam’s opinion, at least two full days are necessary to experience the range of activities available during a visit to Stowe. His family’s lodge certainly offers enough activities to make a traveler feel the need to stay a little longer. The Von Trapp family is one and the same as the Trapp Family Singers made world famous by the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and film, “The Sound of Music”. The musical was based on a book, “The Trapp Family Singers” written by Sam’s grandmother Maria. The rest of the family is strongly involved in the management and day to day operation of the hotel, most recently including Sam’s sister and her husband. He has a background in business and organization, and Sam is counting on him to use these to help implement Sam’s own visions and new program ideas in “a sustainable, organized fashion”.

Sam enjoys interacting with customers and dispensing the best advice experience can provide in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. He says that he and his family will often join guests at the breakfast buffet and let them in on fun and important tips to make their stay optimally enjoyable. About his guests, he says that the family likes to “let them know how to get the most out of the day, let them know a little about the weather forecast, or maybe where the best blackberries are for picking or where the pear trees are nice and ripe right now, this time of year.” He feels that interactions on this level leave a positive impression and gain the lodge a strong following of repeat guests.

The family’s dedication to excellent customer service is evident when Sam summarizes an important aim: “One of my goals when people come here, especially people who are coming with kids, is that at the end of even a week long stay instead of the kids saying ‘Hey, I wanna go home now’ they’re saying ‘I don’t want to leave yet, I haven’t done everything.’”

Show Host Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams asks for a “grand list” of specific local attractions. Sam mentions the popularity of outdoor winter recreation, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and back country skiing. “We’ve got great terrain, we’ve got about 2,200 vertical feet within our private land here and we back up onto state land,” he explains, providing the opportunity for guests to indulge in Nordic touring, snowboarders to get out on a splitboard, or the opportunity for randonnee (Alpine touring) skiing.

When it comes to skiing the lodge has a rich history in the sport. Sam says that his father started the first cross country resort found anywhere in the Americas in 1968. In recent history, the Trapp Family Lodge hosted the NCAA Championships last March.

As for summer activities, some cross country ski trails are open for mountain biking in addition to high end hand built trails that range from easy, beginner levels to help guests establish a level of comfort until they’re ready to gradually work their way up to and through the more advanced and expert trails. Additionally, the Trapp Family Lodge offers bird watching and a newly added disc golf course.

Stephanie is curious and asks about the details of disc golf. Sam explains that it started as a simple barbecue party game of throwing a disc at a post before evolving into a more serious sport. As with traditional golf, the game includes a tee-off area and a goal basket. The game has progressed so that some serious players use varying sizes of discs. “It’s a great way to go on a walk through the woods, and you play around some neat natural objects and have to cross some little streams and hike over some fallen trees. So it’s a good way to get in for a soft hike through the woods, good family activity, good way to get out with your friends and laugh at each other a little bit,” Sam explains. Stephanie later asks if the disc is similar to a Frisbee and Sam confirms this, adding that the discs are shaped differently just as golf clubs are - “driver” and “putter” discs are specially cut for different aerodynamic benefits.

Also available to see in the outdoors and interesting to previous guests is a herd of grass fed Scotch Highland cattle, and Sam identifies the animals as a popular attraction. Another exciting attraction is the new addition of a brewery, a niche that Sam’s father recognized as needing filling when he noticed that a lack of microbrewed lagers existed in the U.S. The family sells Trapp lager currently only in the state of Vermont, but due to a “huge, huge response” with their customers, they currently have plans for expansion, including selling throughout the Northeast. The beer is a recent great success as it has only been brewed for about twenty months, with the first beer sold in late March 2010. Sam quotes an old Austrian saying: “The best beer and the best bread come from around the corner” as being applicable to the success of the microbrewery and tying into the current popularity and support for the national “buy local” movement. He adds that the lodge features a bakery for guests’ enjoyment in the same building as the brewery.

Stephanie asks an important question about whether the same yeast is used for the bakery and the brewery, and Sam laughs as he gives a detailed and knowledgeable explanation of the mechanics of the lager brewing and fermentation processes. Visitors with an interest in the beer brewing process are sure to learn much from Sam’s experience.The beer is bottled in limited quantities but is mostly sold in kegs. The in-house designed label features the logo of an ibex, a goat with curved horns, reminiscent of the family’s European roots.

Sam and his wife are currently raising several goats at home and planning to eventually implement a program of using more goats and sheep and less lawnmowers. He points out that this would lead to less noise and pollution as well as the creation of meat, prompting Stephanie to laughingly respond, “Whatever you say!” The family has a deep and richly held interest in making their lodge a unique place to vacation and a world all its own! Expounding on his family and the lodge’s origins, Sam shares that his grandparents loved the location in Stowe and were reminded of Austria by the beautiful geography and the hardworking, self reliant nature of the Vermont farmers.

Not to be outdone by what’s available on the outside, activities inside include a lounge with fireplace and a well known local pianist, Johnny Castle, as the featured musician. For sport, guests can enjoy a fitness center and indoor pool. Sam’s wife runs a yoga program and hand picks the lodge’s yoga teachers. Massage therapists and a rock climbing wall for kids are also available, and especially good for making the most of inclement weather. Classes offered include photography, baking, cooking, art, and harp lessons. For more fun, there are sing alongs and special groups and activities for kids. For a family with such a rich and famous personal history, it’s not surprising that the lodge also offers history tours that include facts about the historical Von Trapp family, including what was and was not true in the film, and compelling events that happened in reality but didn’t make it into the film.

Related Photo Galleries:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/album.php?albumid=291

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13383

For more information visit www.trappfamily.com


Travel Tips:

Large groups visiting Presque Isle, Maine to partake in the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest or other community festivals and activities can be conveniently and comfortably accommodated in one of two large inns and convention centers in the town, the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center and the Caribou Inn.

A relaxing and visually enjoyable road trip recommended by Stephanie is the drive from Presque Isle, Maine to New Brunswick, Canada. Everything from the rich festival culture of Presque Isle to the waterfalls of Canada, with lots of New England eye candy scenery in between, can be enjoyed this way.


Fun Facts:

The Trapp Family Lodge is owned and operated by descendants of the Von Trapp family made famous in the book, musical, and film, “The Sound of Music”. They bring aspects of their family’s rich history and cultural heritage to their hospitality offerings, paired of course with the beauty, resources, and mentality of their Vermont location.

A visit to the Trapp Family Lodge will introduce visitors to a new and exciting spin on the classic game of golf - disc golf. Lodge owner Sam Von Trapp is a self confessed addict of the game and knowledgeable in its rules.


Guests Include:

Robb Miller, Operations Manager, Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
www.presqueisleinn.com
www.caribouinn.com

Sam Von Trapp, Vice President, Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont, USA.
www.trappfamily.com

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