The National Balloon Museum has a basket available for visitors to take photos in. The gentleman who was acting as museum curator kindly consented to have a picture taken with me. He told us about ballooning in the area and the yearly festival, and gave us information on how to get a balloon ride.
Besides the rooms filled with displays, the museum also has a small theater and a library. The oldest book I noticed was The Aeronautical Annual from 1895.
Decorative balloon models hanging in the library looked like they would be great fun for Lilliputians--or the inhabitants of Martha's Miniaturopolis--to take rides in.
The Victorian cards reminded me of the postcard collections at another of my favorite blogs, John's Island. All of the cards at the museum feature balloons, which were a big thing back in their heyday. Most of them are from the early 1900s.
Another interesting artifact was a fragment of the balloon used by Don Piccard to make the first balloon ascension after World War II in the United States. Piccard used a salvaged Fugo balloon.
Unmanned Fugo bombing balloons were launched by the Japanese between November 1944 and April 1945. It was hoped they would be blown onto the West Coast, start forest fires, and cause general panic. Each balloon carried four incendiary bombs and one 33-pound anti-personnel bomb. An estimated 9000 were launched, and about 500 of these reached the U.S., travelling to 16 states--as far east as Michigan and Texas.
The existence of these balloons was censored until May 1945. The government figured the balloons posed little threat to the public, and they did not want the Japanese to know any successfully made it to the U.S. On May 5, 1945 a woman and five children on a church picnic discovered a balloon in a remote area of Oregon and were killed when an attached bomb exploded. After this, the government warned the public of the balloons. The six are the only known casualties of World War II on the U.S. mainland.
Over 3000 barrage balloons were used in Britain during World War II to help protect against dive-bombing attacks.
The museum had a gift shop with t-shirts, glassware, postcards, and other souvenirs. There was also an area for kids to color, learn about balloons, and play.
The beautiful stained glass window below is a real eye-catcher. The museum has a stained glass window project, through which they hope to replace seven other windows with similarly stunning designs celebrating ballooning throughout the various regions of the United States.
Visiting the National Balloon Museum was well worth the $3 admission fee. Last year in "Expenses, Relativity, and Elephants," I wrote about spending $30 on a circus...and eating a $30 meal at a country club.
Neither experience, though 10 times as expensive, offered anywhere near the educational value or fascinating features this museum offered. I would recommend the National Balloon Museum to anyone visiting Indianola, Iowa.