World, national champion pilots flying in Michigan Challenge Balloonfest

The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest has always attracted some of the best pilots in the world. This year, the roster includes Yudai Fujita, the 2014 World Champion; and Johnny Petrehn, the 2014 US National Champion. Balloonfest is June 26-28 at the Howell High School complex.

“We’re honored to have these two accomplished pilots fly with us at the Michigan Challenge,” said Michelle Tokan, Michigan Challenge director. “They complement a full field of 44 pilots who will be competing this year.”

Fujita will fly Sunny and 75 and is sponsored by Thai Summit America Corp. He lives in Japan and is also a five-time Japanese National Champion

Petrehn will fly Kodachrome and is sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK. He lives in Missouri, Texas. Petrehn was also National Champion in 1998 and World Champion in 2006 and 2010. His brother Paul Petrehn also flies in the Michigan Challenge.

Johnny PetrehnThe Michigan Challenge Balloonfest is the state championship of hot-air ballooning.  The event features five scheduled balloon launches, skydiving, fireworks, entertainment and family activities and attractions. The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest is hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. Major sponsor is Lake Trust Credit Union.

For more information on the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest, call the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce at 517.546.3920 or visit the event website at

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Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.

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