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Throwback Thursday: a wild finish to a marathon balloon race in Rochester

On April 23, 1924, seven balloons took flight from San Antonio, Texas, for the National Balloon Race.

The winners would earn $1,000.

Forty-four hours and 1,100 miles later, the Goodyear III balloon piloted by W. T. Van Orman and his aide C. K. Wollan won when it landed near a farm five miles northwest of Rochester in Cascade Township.

Far from a smooth landing, the balloon took down several telegraph wires and poles before the basket and balloon came to rest on the Great Western railroad right of way mere moments before a train approached.

Fortunately, they were able to stop it without incident.

The two men later presented the American flag they carried in their balloon to the Rochester post of the American Legion.

That flag is at the center of this photo, located in the archives at the History Center of Olmsted County.

Jacob Murphey

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