Mere birthright alone doth not a Utahn create. What makes a true local? We say it is not the number of years you've lived within Zion's borders, but rather the zeal with which you explore all our state has to offer. If you're new, or if you're questioning your right to citizenship, we're here to help, with this refresher course. Every other week, we'll bring you a quintessential Utah-to-do experience. Check back for another to check off your list.
Video by Nathaniel Gardner
You've heard of destination weddings, but holding a ceremony in a hot air balloon? That's another story, and a challenge Morning Star Balloons pilot and owner Darren Wilde has tackled before. He once flew a wedding party of 19 people in two balloons, using radios to keep in touch. "It's so cool to share what I love," he says, noting proposals have also taken place in his balloons with members of his team rolling out an oversized "Will you marry me?"
Wild's love for flying started when he was 6 years old and his dad took the family to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. "Oh, the excitement and the speed," he recalls. "I knew right off the bat that I wanted to fly the rest of my life."
But his dream gig didn't start out in balloons. After high school, Wilde studied at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona before joining the Air Force. He flew jets like the T-37 and T-1A Jayhawk, and though he wanted to work up, the Air Force began offering early retirements in the late '90s. Wilde took the opportunity to move back to Utah with his family in December 1999.
He was weighing career options when he saw hot air balloons, and again, fell instantly in love. Wilde purchased Morning Star Balloons in December 2001, and though jets to balloons is a big change, Wilde can't decide which he loves more. "It's like asking which of my kids is my favorite," he jokes.
Now, Wilde spends his time helping others celebrate special days high above Park City.
Read our other How to be a Utahn posts: