High above New Orleans, a small plane rolled in tight barrels, trailing smoke to create inspirational messages: smiley faces, peace signs, hearts and words like "jazz," ''amen" and — in a true testament of flying ability — "transform."
Over seven days of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a skywriter inscribed smoky messages that captivated the hundreds of thousands gathered below.
New Orleans entrepreneur Frank Scurlock conceived the idea and hired skywriter Nathan Hammond to pen the fanciful, fleeting art.
Scurlock, whose family runs a bounce castle manufacturing and rental company, said the messages were simply his way of reminding people that goodness can still flourish in a world that seems increasingly marred by violence.
"This is just a simple way for people to just look up in the sky, and say 'Wow, what a great world that we live in,' and a chance to believe and have faith in not only today but in the future," he said.
Hammond flew his plane down from Kentucky to be here for Jazz Fest, which runs for seven days over the course of two weekends. The festival ended Sunday.
"We're out here just kind of spreading the love, over the top of New Orleans," Hammond said. He said he generally does commercial work for a company or an event with the occasional request for a marriage proposal. But Scurlock's request was completely different. The entrepreneur hired him for 10 days, three flights a day.
Hammond has to keep his wits — and spelling — about him when he's flying in tight loops or barrels. He estimates the letters to be about a mile tall, although they could stretch up to 10 miles, depending on the message.
On the ground, festival-goers were transfixed.
"I've seen him all week. I've taken pictures of him every single day and enjoyed him and wondered who did it. Every time they would start a word, we'd try to figure it out before they finished what it is," Mary Mouton of New Orleans said.
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Text from the AP news story, PHOTOS: Skywriter's message of love, peace and smiley faces, By Gerald Herbert
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