Chester County Hot Air Balloon Festival Slated for the Weekend
In its twelfth year, this unique celebration offers families the chance to experience dozens of aviation-themed events, including the not-to-be-missed balloon glow.
In 1783, the first hot air balloon took flight in Annonay, France. Among the passengers for the fifteen-minute ride were a sheep, duck, and a rooster. Beginning on Friday, June 22nd and running through Sunday, June 24, families can attend the Chester County Hot Air Balloon Festival where they can join in the celebration of this piece of flight history. Please note: no animals allowed.
This year’s festival, which benefits The Chester County Hero Fund, will take place at the New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenamon. This hidden treasure is located in the middle of sweeping fields, filled with bright-colored hangars and planes waiting for their next adventure. Visitors will park and be shuttled in via hay wagons sure to make anyone feel like a kid again. The wagon ride runs along scenic Chester County landscapes, bursting with soon-to-be summer produce, before dropping you in the midst of all the fun.
Parents should make a beeline for the Victory Brewpub on Wheels for an ice cold craft beer from this local brewery. The brewpub is conveniently located near a healthy collection of food trucks, so don’t forget your appetite. A host of local bands, including The Rose Project and Bob Croce will be performing in the evening hours, throughout the weekend, offering entertainment while you eat.
From there, take the kids over to meet Stubby–a helicopter on wheels brought to the festival by The American Helicopter Museum. With the help of a docent, kids can climb in the cockpit, touch the controls and learn what it takes to fly one of these massive machines. It’s a hands-on experience they won’t forget.
If you are looking for more educational opportunities, visit the Ballooning History Display. Ballooning experts and experienced pilots will be giving talks and telling stories about their adventures all weekend long. Festival-goers can also find information about the history of balloon flight in the Philadelphia area. If you’ve got a kid who’s really into it, take him or her over to the main hangar where they can participate in a daily ballooning workshop.
If you are going in the hopes of grabbing a thrill, you are in luck. Visitors can take a traditional hot air balloon ride, enjoy an abbreviated trip on a tethered balloon, buckle up for a helicopter flight, and hang on for a spin in a monster truck. These activities have additional costs beyond admission so check the festival’s website for details, pricing, and reservations.
If you are more into watching the thrills, there’s plenty of that too. Each day includes thrill-watching events like a jet-car demonstration, a paragliding show, and a remote control plane demo. Spectators can enjoy watching the team from Skydive Cross Keys complete a skydive flag jump, and get the chance to walk through an actual hot air balloon.
Balloons will launch daily – once between 5:30 and 7 am and again around 6:30 pm, weather and safety permitting. The public is welcome to watch the morning launch at no cost. The night launch is included with festival admission.
The Chester County Balloon Festival will wow its visitors with a balloon glow on Saturday evening at 8:30 pm. If you’ve never been to one of these, it’s a must-see. Spectators will watch as, in unison, every balloon fires its propane flame, filling the balloons and creating a glow effect. The colors, mixed with the delicate nature, and tremendous size of the balloons will please everyone. If you can keep the kids up late, stay for the fireworks too–they start at 9:30 pm.
Admission to the Festival is $15 per adult, $10 per child 6-12, and free for kids under 6. The Festival is open on Friday from 4–9 pm, Saturday from 1:30–10 pm, and Sunday from 12–7 pm. For more details, please visit their website at www.ccballoonfest.com.
Photos Courtesy of Gregory Cazillo/Chester County Balloon Festival