Grants Pass merchants raised enough money in 1907 to bring R. L. Berry to town as a highlight to their “Great Industrial and Irrigation Fair.” Berry had lived in Grants Pass as a youngster and the city felt honored to welcome back a local boy who had dazzled crowds in Portland as a hot air balloon aeronaut.
Berry’s anticipated parachute jump from a balloon would be the most successful performance ever seen in the city.
At 9 a.m. on Sept. 10, 1907, Berry and his helpers dug a 3-foot-deep, wash tub-sized heating pit, built a fire in the pit and let it burn down to coals. The collapsed balloon was placed close to the pit, sucking in puffs of hot air as kerosene was poured onto the coals. A team of “boy anchors” held down the rim of the balloon as it filled.
As the balloon rose into the air, Berry performed acrobatics from an attached rope trapeze. When the balloon cooled and began to descend, Berry cut himself free.
The spectators cheered with pride and relief as their local boy’s parachute opened and he floated safely to earth.
Sources: "New Features Added for the Celebration." Rogue River Courier, 14 June 1907 [Grants Pass, Oregon]. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016. oregonnews.uoregon.edu › Historic Oregon Newspapers; Booth, Percy T. Grants Pass The Golden Years. Coos Bay, Ore., B & B Publishing, 1984, pp. 55-57.