By JEN CARDINES
Preparations for the 33rd annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, run by the Plainville Fire Department, are well underway. On Aug. 25, 26, and 27, Norton Park will be filled with vendors, arts and crafts, food… and of course, the balloons.
Each year, the PFD operates the festival, which serves as a fundraiser so they can assist in town organizations including student scholarships. Festival co-chair Jim Lenois said that last year’s event was a great success, and officials are hoping to continue that this time around.
“Feedback on social media was really positive that changes we made were successful,” Lenois said. “We’re continuing to make subtle changes.”
Once again, shuttle busses will be on hand to transport people to and from Norton Park. Parking is available to the public at Robertson Airport, Carling Technologies, GE, and Plainville High School. Onsite parking is available to vendors, staff, motorcycles, and handicapped parking.
“We had a lot of success last year with bussing people in and we will continue that this year,” said Lenois. “It seemed to relieve a lot of congestion.”
Busses begin running from parking lots at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25, but the festival officially opens at 5 p.m. The craft and vendor show will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. “Nashville Drive” will provide music onstage from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the balloon glow will be on the field at 7:30 p.m. The evening will culminate with a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday morning kicks off early with a balloon launch at 6 a.m., where parking is allowed at Norton Park until 8 a.m. The food booth will open at 5:30 a.m. to feed the early birds, and remain open all day. The outdoor arts and crafts show was redesigned and expanded to better accommodate patrons, and will occur from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The antique car show runs from noon until 5 p.m.
Live entertainment will continue on the stage from noon until 9:30 p.m. featuring Fuzzy Logic and Pacing Pluto, Hypnotist Bruce James, and The Curl Daddy’s. Lenois said the vendor response was larger than last year, so locals can look forward to a bigger vendor area.
A second balloon launch is released at 6 p.m. on Saturday and the final launch goes off at 6 a.m. on Sunday. Food will be available Sunday morning from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and the festival closes at 9 a.m. No busses run on Sunday morning, so parking is allowed at the park.
Lenois said the department anticipates a great event. He and Chad Chamberland co-chair the event and make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
“We get tremendous support from town departments and businesses,” Lenois said. “It’s a cooperative effort.”
The Hot Air Balloon Festival is free to attend, but there is a charge for food and products sold through vendors. PFD does not provide or arrange balloon rides, but some balloonists offer tethered rides on Friday night for a nominal fee.
“We made a lot of major changes last year, so all of the fun from last year will continue on,” Lenois said. “It’s something for everyone to enjoy at the end of the summer.”
For more information and a detailed list of events, visit www.plainvillefireco.com/Balloon_Festival