Goshen Hosts Inaugural New England Balloon Festival

The Hartford Courant

If a weekend of hot air balloon rides, food trucks and live music sounds like a weekend well spent, you're not alone — 64,000 people have hit the "Interested" tab on the New England Balloon Festival's Facebook page, which spread like viral wildfire after being uploaded in January.

The inaugural festival, which runs from July 7 to 9 on the Goshen Fairgrounds, is devoted to the hot air balloon, that beloved aerial contraption now considered more a work of art than true mode of transportation. Attendees can soar in balloons tethered to the ground at heights of up to 100 feet; the more daring can opt for untethered flights, with five launches planned over the festival's three days. (Tickets for untethered flights are sold out.)

Organizer Alicia Daponte called the surge of Facebook traffic heartening, if not expected.

"It went from an idea to this event that people from all over the country are traveling to New England to see," she says.

Those hoping to keep their feet planted on terra firma that weekend can admire a "balloon glow" at sunset on Friday and Saturday, a display of anchored balloons illuminated by their burners against a backdrop of night.

Organizers stressed that hot air balloons are fickle contraptions, sensitive to slight changes in wind speed, and that they may be grounded due to conditions high up in the atmosphere.

"Although on the ground the sun is out, not a cloud in the sky, and no wind to be felt for miles on the ground … that does not mean that 100 feet up in the air, the wind is blowing hard enough [to prevent] the balloons from going up," the festival's Eventbrite page reads.

"The balloonists' first concern is for people's safety," says Daponte. "The balloons are out of everybody's hands — they're in Mother Nature's hands."

Weather permitting, the festival's 15 to 20 balloons will go up at 6 p.m. on Friday; and at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Regardless of the balloons' flight status, the festival will also feature more earthly attractions such as food trucks, carnival rides, live music and a petting zoo, all which will go on regardless of the wind speed in the upper atmosphere. More than 30 food trucks from across New England and New York will be in attendance, says Daponte.

The festival also plays host to an eclectic range of bazaars, including a Made in New England market with wares from local artisans, artists and chefs, a LuLaRoe pop-up clothing sale and an Auto & Power Sports swap meet. 

Weekend passes for the festival are $13 presale and $30 at the door. One-day passes are $9 presale, $14 at the door. Balloon rides are not covered in the cost of admission; tickets for tethered rides are $20 — $10 for children 12 and under — and sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The festival grounds, which include the Made in New England Market, LuLaRoe pop-up, swap meet and food trucks, are open 2 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Anyone can show up to watch the 6 a.m. launches.

Later in the summer, the Plainville Hot Air Festival returns to Norton Park Aug. 25 to 27.

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