Ann Arbor company is largest hot air balloon manufacturer in the world

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On a vacation this past week, my wife and I were invited by our friends in Albuquerque New Mexico to check out the biggest hot air balloon festival in the country. 

More than 500 of them from across the world descend in between a skyscape of mountains and clouds.  We showed up and noticed a piece of home everywhere we looked.

"There were 580 balloons that were out in Albuquerque and I would say 70 percent of the balloons were manufactured right here in Ann Arbor, Michigan," said Shawn Raya with Cameron Balloons.

Located on Newman road, the Ann Arbor mailing address brought us to the headquarters for the largest hot air balloon manufacturer in the world.  The Dexter factory is churning out dozens of hot air balloons every single year. They get orders from India, Dubai, and all across America. 
"People were making baskets out of metals," Raya said. "And after each flight they would have to undent each basket."

From the baskets made of rattan wood, soaked and shaped into the seats for the rides - to the fabric.

Raya: "Push that pen all the way through the material. So we've got a hole. Our material over the years has evolved."

Resilient enough to repair itself if needed.  

"You can design whatever shape, whatever color, pattern that you want," Raya said.

From regular old balloons with anything but ordinary colors to unique shapes, seven out of 10 of these balloons in the mountains of New Mexico come from Michigan with love and care. 

"I don't care if you are five years old or you're 90 years old, it's magical. It's peaceful, it's gorgeous," Raya said.

Whether you're at the Super Bowl of hot air balloon flying or just sitting around.  When you look up, know it's likely you're seeing a piece of Ann Arbor hovering above.