SPRINGVILLE — Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, dearly loves being aloft in his hot-air balloon. He loves it so much he's willing to climb out of bed before dawn most mornings just to see if it's a good day for launching.

That's why it is so hard for him to say no when the weather isn't right.

But he does it.

He did it on the morning of the Art City Days balloon launch. Even though it was sunny and calm, because the clouds over the mountains were moving at a noticeably rapid speed, he decided to keep his "Stars and Stripes" balloon grounded.

Those who took to the air didn't take any passengers.

"This is the plight of balloonists," Bramble said. "You're at the mercy of the weather. This is one of those times, standing on the ground, I really wish I were in the air. But this is much better than being in the air really wishing I was on the ground."

At the Art City launch, each balloonist could choose for himself, but at the Provo Freedom Festival balloon event, Bramble calls the shots.

He is the designated FAA safety officer, which means he has to decide each year if it is safe to launch. With 25-30 balloonists and a crowd of 30,000 people waiting on his word, it can become stressful.

"In all these years, I've only had to call it a handful of times. This is the exception rather than the rule. It's really tough when you have to call it off," Bramble said.

"It's like the old joke," he said. "There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots."

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com