In the air hung a multitude of hot-air balloons, their brightly-colored envelopes making them look like floating birthday cakes. Already they were close enough to hear the roar of their burners, working to get enough altitude to clear the ornate roof of the palace. Once they did, their pilots would began dropping candies and small loaves of bread, the king's presents to his subjects gathered on the huge plaza beyond.
The plan was to begin the drop immediately after the king made his greetings from the formal balcony. Instead, the strong lake breeze had proved more brisk than the royal meteorologists had predicted, and His Majesty was at risk of being late to his own party.
However, there could be no question of distributing the gifts from the ground. The memory of his grandfather's diamond jubilee remained too strong, of how a rumor that they were running out of food to distribute had led the crowd to rush the barriers and ransack the distribution carts. Dozens had died in the crush, mostly small children and the elderly, but also family members who'd sought to protect them. The next year the old king had announced that henceforth all such distributions would be done from the air in hopes of preventing such a crowd panic.