PITTSFIELD — Now, here's a story you're going to love.

In the parking lot next to the Aaron's Store at 154 South St., large, multi-colored balloons strained against ropes held down by sandbags on Monday morning.

There were stars, an American flag, an Uncle Sam-style top hat and a "Sesame Street" character. And large is not quite accurate. These are really, really big balloons. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade-size floating balloons. Not as elaborate, perhaps, but impressive.

Crews get here as early as 6:30 a.m. to start blowing up the five giant balloons, said a volunteer.

No, not with lung power; with a generator.

Various organizations volunteer to actually carry the balloons along the parade route. In addition, there is the Johnson family.

The Johnson family is not a volunteer organization. It is Christine Johnson and her family, from Hinsdale.

This is the story: Eighteen years ago, it was her son John's birthday.

"So I said, 'John, do you remember what I got you last year?'" recalled Christine.

"And I said, 'no,'" said John, who was standing right next to his mother on Monday.

"So," said Christine, "I said, 'From now on, you will.'"

No, the Johnson family, which includes daughter Pamela and various extended family and friends, do not go around the country helping tote giant floating balloons.

Rather, Christine Johnson tries to make her children's birthdays memorable by going on an adventure every year.


A couple years ago, said John, it was whitewater rafting. Before that, the whole family went to trapeze school.

"That was an education," said John.

They have gone horseback riding and hot air ballooning. This year, they decided to volunteer to carry one of the inflatable balloons in the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.

By the time Christine was done explaining this year's adventure, the ropes had been untied from the sandbags, and the giant Uncle Sam top hat was floating in the air, held down by members of the Johnson family.

"When the wind picks up, it gets tricky," said John. "This will be interesting."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.