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Curious girls learn how far balloons can fly

Illinois farmer tracks down W.V. launchers

WEST VALLEY CITY — Shawn and Denean Fowler's three curious girls learned at least one lesson this week — balloons that go up have to come down, sometimes way far away in Illinois.

It all started when Shawn's brother, Clint Fowler, received a bunch of balloons on Valentine's Day from his girlfriend, Ashley Hughes. Shawn's girls, ages 7, 9 and 11, caught wind of the gift and on a whim thought it'd be neat to watch them fly away.

"The girls were asking questions like, 'Where they would go?' " Shawn said. "You know, normal kids' stuff."

So, they put their names on some balloons, the words West Valley, Utah, on another and drew pictures of horses and bulls on others — Daddy likes to ride bulls in the rodeo. They tied them all together, about 25 in all, and let them go four days later.

Oh sure, the family had a good chuckle over the project Shawn and his girls undertook. But this week they changed their tune.

"They were quite surprised somebody found them," Shawn said.

Don Fain, 75, a retired farmer in Casey, Ill., was walking with his German shepherd, Lady, around noon Feb. 24 when the dog spotted something floating to the ground on Fain's farm. The balloons had traveled more than 1,500 miles.

With the help of his son Stan the search for the Fowlers started — but it fell short of finding the right Fowlers. Then the Fains phoned the Deseret News.

"He'd just like to let them know where they landed," Stan said. "We'd just like to contact them or have them contact us."

KSL-TV followed a Tuesday Deseret News story with a mention of the balloons in Wednesday's 6 p.m. newscast. On Thursday, the Fowlers and the Fains met over the phone.

"He was pretty excited to hear from us," Shawn said. With a TV camera running, "We all sat around the table and had a conference call with him. . . . He was totally shocked."

And Daddy Fowler's lesson?

"People are connected at all walks of life, no matter where you are, I guess."


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com