By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
Balloon festivals are great events to experience the excitement of flight. What’s best is that you can get your thrills firsthand, or, for those with queasy stomachs, by watching others. By using cross currents at different altitudes, balloonists can circle, make U-turns, and go up and down. It can be just as fun for those watching from below as it is for those riding high inside the basket.
Wherever you experience a balloon festival, you can expect early morning and early evening liftoffs, for that’s when the wind is best. Then, just before the sun sets, the balloons land. The crowd then watches in awe as darkness ushers in the balloon glow. Festival organizers make sure that you won’t be bored between balloon events by scheduling music, food, vendors, and plenty of other things to see and do.
1. Quechee Balloonfest, Quechee, Vermont, June 17-19, 2005
On Father’s Day weekend this village fills with balloons and people. Beginning Friday evening, balloon flights will commence at 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. throughout the weekend. Festival-goers also can enjoy music, mimes, jugglers, unicyclists, and many kid-specific activities. Crafters will display jewelry, woodworking items, stained glass, and quilts, and plenty of food will be available. The festival is held in the town center on Quechee Village Green. For more information, visit www.quechee.com.
2. Tigard Festival of Balloons, Tigard, Oregon, June 17-19, 2005
Those attending this event, also on Father’s Day weekend, can expect 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. flights, pancake breakfasts, craft vendors, live bands, a night glow, and an antique car show. The sky will be filled with beautiful balloons of various colors, shapes, and sizes soaring over the towns of Tigard, Tualatin, and Wilsonville. As the sun sets, a few balloons are laid out in the middle of the crowd and inflated “” you can help out, if you like. It’s an opportunity to see it all firsthand or just sit back and watch the balloons light up the sky. For more information, visit www.tigardballoon.org.
3. Michigan Challenge Balloonfest XXI, Howell, Michigan, June 24-26, 2005
In its 21st year, this event, staged at the Howell High School complex, includes 50-plus balloons filling the sky with color, plus plenty of music, a carnival, and family activities. An arts festival, a medieval village, a stunt kite team, and an antique and custom car show will fill the grounds. For more information, visit www.michiganchallenge.com.
4. Hillsborough Balloon Festival, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, July 7-10, 2005
Head to Grimes Field to discover an old-fashioned carnival, complete with a midway, crafts, food, games, draft horse pulls, lawn tractor pulls, mud bog races, and an antique and classic car show. The main attraction is, of course, hot-air balloons. This year marks a quarter-century of fun and balloons. Rides are available at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, with a balloon glow on Friday night. To learn more, visit www.balloonfestival.org.
5. Quick Chek New Jersey Festival Of Ballooning, Readington, New Jersey, July 29-31, 2005
As many as 125 hot-air balloons will fill the summer skies at Solberg Airport during this festival. Expect the standard events, such as a mass inflation of hot-air balloons, followed by the ascension. It’s an incredible experience. Highlights at past festivals have included an alligator show, a mountainboard demonstration, stage shows, clowns, air shows, magic performances, and fireworks. For more information, visit http://quickchk.balloonfestival.com.
6. International Balloon Festival Of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada, August 13-21, 2005
This is the 22nd year for what has become the largest balloon festival in Canada. Balloon enthusiasts can experience balloon flights at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Imagine seeing 125 balloons lifting off simultaneously, accompanied by classical or popular music. After sunset, hot-air balloons are transformed into giant Chinese lanterns standing proudly in the night during the balloon glow. For more information, visit www.montgolfieres.com.
7. Great Falls Balloon Festival, Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, August 19-21, 2005
For the 2005 festival, which is still in the planning stages, expect the usual balloon launches. Last year’s event also featured parachutists and paragliders, and the chance to explore the “Balloon Envelope” before it was filled with air. Plenty of music will accompany the action, as well as food and a wide range of activities for kids and adults alike. For more information, visit www.greatfallsballoonfestival.org.
8. Adirondack Balloon Festival, Glens Falls, Queensbury, and Lake George, New York, September 22-25, 2005
Last year’s festival, held primarily at Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, included the Flying Farmers Breakfast; morning and evening flights by more than 100 balloons; the “I Love New York” Intercontinental Balloon Race; a rock-climbing wall; and a flight of the world’s largest kite. On Saturday night, festival-goers enjoyed a balloon glow and fireworks at nearby Battlefield Park in Lake George Village. For more information about this year’s activities, visit www.adirondackballoonfest.org.
9. Plano Balloon Festival, Plano, Texas, September 16-18, 2005
Texas does everything in a big way. Throughout its 25-year history, the festival has drawn crowds of more than 100,000 people. Friday will include the 5:30 p.m. parachute team exhibition, the 6:00 p.m. balloon launch, and the 8:00 p.m. balloon glow, plus music and dancing. Saturday starts with a 6:30 a.m. Dawn Patrol “Wake up Plano” event followed by the balloon launch at 7:00 a.m. Evening activities include another balloon launch and balloon glow, and a 9:00 p.m. fireworks show. If you’ve missed out on any of the fun during the first two days, you can do most of it on Sunday. Plenty of entertainment and activities are offered throughout the weekend. For more information, visit www.planoballoonfest.org.
10. Adam Matthews Balloon Festival, Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky, September 23-25, 2005
Last year’s balloon festival set a new state record for attendance “” 131,000 people. Grab a blanket and come out Friday at 5:00 p.m. for food, live music, and fun before the balloon glow. At dawn on Saturday, balloons launch from neighborhoods throughout Jefferson County and head to Bowman Field for the Balloon Race. The afternoon will include food, a car show, live music, and other entertainment. After the evening balloon glow, the sky is set ablaze with fireworks. Sunday morning will begin at Bowman Field with a mass launching of all balloons, followed by the usual food and activities. Check www.balloonglow.com periodically for the complete schedule of events.
11. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico, September 30-October 9, 2005
Balloon Fiesta Park is the site of this festival, the world’s largest hot-air ballooning event. Last year nearly 800,000 people attended the 10-day fiesta, which featured 730 balloons from 42 states and 19 countries. Numerous hot-air balloons will fill the sky as races and competitions are held throughout the event. Early risers can witness the “Dawn Patrol Show,” a choreographed inflation and launch in the dark that is set to music. Other attractions include a wine-tasting event; a classic and special-interest vehicle show; nightly balloon glows; and fireworks. For more information, visit www.aibf.org.
12. Arizona Balloon Festival, Chandler, Arizona, November 2005
Snowbirds, pay attention, because this one is in November. As of this writing, details for the 2005 event had not yet been announced, but here’s some information about last year’s event. Early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, balloons took off for the Hare and Hound contest. The balloonist who accumulated the most points during the two-day competition won a cash prize. Other activities included balloon glows on Friday and Saturday nights; skydivers; fireworks; appearances by the Arizona Sky Hawks precision parachute team; and the Arizona Arts & Crafts Expo. The Family Zone featured interactive activities including children’s entertainment, face painting, clowns, and more. Local bands performed on the main stage throughout the festival. Bring your appetite and expect plenty of food. For more information, visit www.chandleraz.gov, click on the “Leisure & Lifestyle” link, and scroll down to “Festivals & Special Events.”
13. Find your own balloon festivals
Not all the festivals mentioned above will accommodate your location or schedule, so here are several additional Web sites to help you find one closer to home or wherever you might be traveling: