Did you know that the first use of a hot air balloon was in China, over two thousand years ago, as a way for the Chinese army to send messages when surrounded by enemies? Did you know that the first hot air balloon ride happened in France in the 18th century, and the passengers were a duck, a sheep, and a rooster (all of which were found to be safe after the balloon landed a few miles after takeoff)? That hot air balloons were used during the US Civil War as a way for the Union army to spot the Confederate forces on the ground many miles away (via Napa Valley Balloons)? That the average hot air balloon flight is 2,000 feet in the air, but the record is almost 69,000 feet(via The East Texas Weekend)?
Now in its 38th year, the NJ Lottery Festival of Ballooning, based at Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ, attracts almost 100 hot air balloons and thousands upon thousands of spectators over a July weekend. Beside the twice-daily mass ascensions of balloons, the festival also features live music (this year’s performers are The Bare Naked Ladies, Styx, and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox – founded and led by Max, best known as the drummer for Bruce Springsteen), yoga classes, a 5k run, concerts and activities for children, and seemingly countless vendors. It has something for everyone! Having heard rave reviews about the festival, my wife and I purchased tickets in advance, woke up way before dawn, and set off to check out this cool event for ourselves.
NJ Festival of Ballooning
Throughout the morning, my wife filmed the balloons as they ascended to the sky, and I put together a short film from her footage. I hope you enjoy it:
NJ Monthly Challenge Updates
While I’m not sure if a hot air balloon ride will ever be in my future (remember, your humble scribe has a wicked fear of heights), I will certainly return to this wonderful festival. The spectacle of seeing nearly 100 hot air balloons soar into the morning sky is something that I won’t soon forget! Tickets for the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning are a bit on the pricy side – $40 for adults and $15 for children 4-12 (although free for children 3 and younger), but you get access to the festival for an entire day, and can re-enter if you leave (just get your hand stamped before you exit!). Events run from 1:00 pm to 9:45 pm on Friday, from 6:00 am until 8:30 pm on Saturday, and 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday, and the schedule is jam-packed with fun activities for the entire family. The festival definitely gets a “The Open Road Ahead” two thumbs up!
As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead (and into the sky).