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Kismet in Carlton Balloon Festival takes off

The Northland's largest candy store hopes to bring iconic hot air ballooning back with an annual event.

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"Sunny Daze" and "Oh-Zone" fly high above the forests of Cromwell. The balloons are piloted by brothers Mark and Thomas Spanier.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CROMWELL — Sweetly Kismet Candy Store took the term "sugar high" to new levels as it hosted the first Kismet in Carlton Balloon Festival on Friday and Saturday.

The event took place in conjunction with the Cromwell Harvest Festival at the Cromwell-Wright High School baseball fields. Next year, organizers anticipate the balloon festival to be held in partnership with Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton.

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Aerial view of the Kismet in Carlton Balloon Festival. The "Sugar High" balloon is shown on top, with "Sunny Daze" and "Oh-Zone" balloons on the bottom.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

In previous years, Bayfront Festival Park served as the setting for the Duluth Hot Air Balloon Festival. Following a four-year hiatus, a group of organizers in the Northland decided to host a similar rally farther inland for safety reasons.

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Ed Chapman, piloted "Fire and Frost," not pictured, the lead balloon of the four that went up for hourlong rides Saturday in Cromwell. He was responsible for finding a location for all the balloons to land in. This wide-open pasture made for a perfect location for all four balloons to land. It is etiquette that the chaser vehicle asks the homeowners' permission prior to anyone disembarking. The owners were in the field when all four balloons were making their approach and happily welcomed the crew to their field.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

"Bayfront was a difficult venue to launch and fly from because of unpredictable winds. We didn't want to end up over Lake Superior with nowhere to land," said Jon Parrott, owner of Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton.

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Mark Spanier, pilot of "Sunny Daze," takes his passengers close to the water before ascending above the tree line.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

A hot air balloon pilot, Jon joined fellow Minnesotan aeronauts Ed Chapman , Brett Tupy and brothers Mark and Tom Spanier in efforts to share their joy of the activity with others in the area.

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"Sugar High" receives help from the spectators Saturday in Cromwell. All hands on deck are needed to inflate the balloons.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal
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Brett Tupy, pilot of "Enchantment," flies his balloon through two hay bales before landing.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

"There are not many people that do it, maybe less than a dozen in the state. We're hoping to bring hot air ballooning back and revive it. This gives local pilots a way to show the community what they do and display their balloons," Jon said.

With tethered rides and commercial flights followed by a glow balloon display Saturday at dusk, the first annual Kismet in Carlton Balloon Festival was a success, drawing a baseball field bustling with attendees. The Sweetly Kismet Candy Store hosted the event, with concessions available for hungry balloonatics.

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"Sugar High" goes up one last time Saturday evening. "Sugar" High offered tethered rides for $20 per passenger. It was a good way for those who had not been on a hot air balloon before to experience what it is like.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

JoAnn Schmidt said her family ventured over an hour to Cromwell from Pine City because it was a good opportunity for her daughter, Claira Schmidt, who has Down syndrome. They opted for a tethered ride in the Sweetly Kismet balloon.

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Lawrence, Claira, JoAnn and LJ Schmidt traveled from Pine City to attend the first Kismet in Carlton Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Cromwell High School baseball fields Saturday.
Brielle Bredsten / Duluth News Tribune

"It was hot," JoAnn said as she described the heat from the burner as they stood in the basket, "and cool! I think it is a very cool event that the town of Cromwell put on — very unique. Fortunately, the weather cooperated. Take the opportunity if you ever had the chance."

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"Sunny Daze" gives the crowd one last glow before rain sprinkles started Saturday night.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, Jon gained experience as a flight instructor and flew corporate jets. He left the industry in 2008, and in 2017 set out to open a family business with his wife, Ashley Parrott. She had been working as a nurse and Jon was a business owner.

They dreamed of creating a candy store tourist destination, and purchased a hot air balloon as a marketing tool. Chapman provided Jon's training to get an additional rating on his pilot license.

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Brea Parrott, 15, of Wright, secures the tether line on the basket. Brea's dad and licensed pilot, Jon Parrott, later inspects all of her work. Brea has been interested in hot air ballooning for several years and is old enough to start earning her pilot license.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

"The best thing I've learned about hot air ballooning is the community. It's a community to where you meet people who have the same love and passion for flying. In the sport of hot air ballooning, there is a lot of work to it —setting up, tearing down and putting things together, but if someone asks for or needs something, everyone pitches in," Jon said.

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Volunteer chaser crew NataLee Hakamaki, of Cromwell, assists Joseph Chapman and his dad and pilot, Ed Chapman, pack up the balloon after landing. Chapman's balloon, "Fire and Frost" weighs 324 pounds.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Prior to opening Sweetly Kismet Candy Store on June 26, 2020, the Parrotts were firing on all cylinders to clear land, build a road, and prep the site of the candy warehouse. Tucked away in the pine trees behind Kwik Trip on state Highway 210 in Twin Lakes Township, it is located within minutes of Jay Cooke State Park .

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"The first summer we opened, it was an unsure time with the COVID-19 pandemic, but we had a great welcoming by the community. In our second season, we struggled with supply chain issues. It was a challenge to get product, but it's improving. This summer, it has finally been a somewhat normal year," Jon said. "We're growing and getting bigger, but have to pace ourselves with whatever the world has in store at any given moment."

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Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton carries over 3,500 products.
Brielle Bredsten / Duluth News Tribune

With 4,500 square feet, the niche gift shop's shelves are full of 3,500 candies, sodas and other snacks. A true family business, the couple's three children and two sheltie pups, Pez and Pixie, warmly greet customers.

Commissioners approved financing for a Wright couple to open Sweetly Kismet.

Tractor rides, food trucks and outdoor activities like children games, roasting marshmallows and hot dogs over an open fire take place throughout fall at Kismet. And, of course, there are occasional tethered hot air balloon rides at the store, weather dependent. Event details can be found on the Sweetly Kismet Candy Store Facebook page at @ultimatetcandyexperience .

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Children play at an outdoor play dough station located at Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton over Labor Day weekend.
Brielle Bredsten / Duluth News Tribune

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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