After about a year’s worth of preparation, the Plainville Fire Company will present the 35th annual Hot Air Balloon Festival this weekend.
The event will be Friday, Aug. 23 through Sunday, Aug. 25 at Norton Park.
Jim Lenois serves as the Plainville Fire Department safety officer, and is the chair of the Hot Air Balloon festival. Lenois said that every year, the company tries to make incremental changes to improve the event, and this year will be no exception.
Unlike many other balloon festivals, Plainville allows attendees to walk among the hot air balloons while balloonists prepare for the balloon glow, taking place on Friday night.
Lenois said he is often asked what draws people to hot air balloons. He said people are fascinated by the balloons, and that the balloonists enjoy explaining how the balloons work and what it takes to get a balloon into the air.
Some attendees will even be able to observe the festival from the air, as balloonists take them up in a tethered balloon. Hot air balloon rides are available in some balloons, but they were not arranged or provided by the Plainville Fire Company. Those interested in riding in a hot-air balloon are directed to arrange a flight through the individual companies that will be attending. To do so, visit www.lighterthanair.org.
The only parking allowed on-site will be handicap parking and a limited number of motorcycles. All other parking will be situated off-site at Plainville High School, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, and at Robertson Airport, 62 Johnson Ave., Plainville. There will be shuttle buses running continuously between PHS, the airport, and Norton Park.
Those who will be participating in the balloon launches on Saturday and Sunday mornings — beginning at 6 a.m. — will be able to park at Norton Park. But, Lenois said, the company
will ask that all vehicles parked on-site be relocated by 9 a.m.
Throughout the weekend-long event, attendees will be treated to a fireworks display beginning at 9 p.m., on Friday night, live musical entertainment beginning Friday evening, hundreds of crafters and vendors, food vendors, and a car show on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.
All show cars are welcome to participate in the showing, and registration will cost $10 at the park entrance on South Washington Street (Route 177).
Lenois said the beauty of the festival is that the event is free to attend, in a free public park (although craft and food vendors will charge for their products). It’s also one of the last few events of the summer before children head back to school. Not only does the event make for a great family day as there are activities and entertainment for people of all ages, attending the Hot Air Balloon Festival is a direct investment in the Plainville Community, he said.
The festival chairman explained that little of the event proceeds return to the Fire Company. Approximately $8,000 is distributed as scholarship funds, donations are made to the Plainville Food Pantry, Plainville Community Schools athletic teams, and several other community organizations. Even registration fees from the car show benefit the community, as they will go to the Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Those who wish to contribute to the scholarship but will be unable to attend, can donate through the Fire Company website.
The 35th annual Hot Air Balloon Festival is weather dependent, and there is no rain date scheduled. If rain is suspected to occur on the Friday evening of the fireworks, the display may be postponed until the following evening: Saturday, Aug. 24, at 9 p.m.
Due to the high energy nature of the event, PFC recommends that attendees do not bring their pets. The use of all drones is also prohibited.
To learn more about the Plainville Fire Company and the Hot Air Balloon Festival, visit the department website, www.plainvillefireco.com, or the festival website, www.plainvillefireco.com/hot-air-balloon-festival.
All questions should be emailed to balloonfest@ plainvillefireco.com.
For up-to-date information, visit the festival’s Facebook page.