Pilot Gary Michalek kept a Tracy tradition going with a hot air balloon flight from Tracy Municipal Airport on the Fourth of July.

Michalek is one of the pilots who for the past several years has kicked off the Independence Day celebrations at Lincoln Park with a hot air balloon launch. He was the only one in the sky on Saturday.

Michalek launched from a field next to one of the runways at the Tracy airport. He inflated his balloon at 6:30 a.m. and lifted off close to 7 a.m., climbing into the sky with an American flag draped on the gondola.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all this year’s festivities at the park, including the early-morning balloon launch.

The annual fireworks show presented by the city and Tracy Chamber of Commerce was still launched from the old Heinz factory next to Tracy High School. But the stadium where spectators normally gather was closed, and Lincoln Park was also closed at dusk. Instead, people were encouraged to watch from their homes if possible, or park somewhere with a better view and watch from their cars.