After months of preparation, weeks of wondering and days of getting ready, Genesee Country Village & Museum’s one-of-a kind, Civil War-era gas balloon—the Intrepid—took its maiden flight on July 4, 2012.
Since then, the 72-foot, helium-filled balloon had taken passengers soaring some 300 feet above the rooftops, departing at 15-minute intervals.
This season, the Intrepid will be on display in the museum’s South Field, surrounded by a Civil War encampment.
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Carps was authorized by Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. Like its namesake, the Intrepid bares the image of the then-popular Gen. George McClellan below a flying eagle. Its name is inscribed on the balloon’s reverse.
While historically balloons were inflated with hydrogen, the modern Intrepid uses helium. Just two weeks before its inaugural flight, the Intrepid looked like it would be grounded due to a world-wide helium shortage.
But Macy’s, the nation’s second-largest user of the gas with its traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade, delivered a last-minute miracle—50,000 cubic feet of helium.
When inflated, the balloon has a 44-foot diameter and, like the original Civil War balloons, it is tethered to the ground for optimal convenience and safety.
The Intrepid story
History of the Army Balloon Corps
President Lincoln and the Balloon Corps audio tour
Balloon Warfare audio tour
Balloon Technology audio tour
GCVM is open 10 am-4 pm Tues.-Sun.
Closed Mondays except for May 27, Sept. 2 & Oct. 14