WARREN COUNTY FLYING FESTIVALS
What began as a small gathering of pilots at the Warren County Farmers’ Fair has blossomed into the Flying Festivals – four annual ballooning events in April, June, July, and September. The spring event, known as Area 57, is for fans of all flying objects. There will be drone demonstrations, tethered balloon rides, and presentations on how hot air balloons work. Located at Warren Community College, the event will coincide with Droning On, an educational drone experience hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The three-day Hot Air Balloons, Arts & Crafts Festival in June features a car and truck show, drone demonstrations, a robot tournament, food trucks, and artisan vendors displaying their wares. Of course, you can’t miss the three main events: tethered and full-flight balloon rides, the hot air balloon launch, and “Balloomination” – a synchronized light show where the balloons glow to the beat of familiar songs.
In late July, the Warren County Farmers’ Fair gears up with its own balloon festival, plus 4-H shows, live music, an Arts Expo, and more. Be sure to check out the mass balloon ascension, daily tethered rides, and the fan-favorite balloon known as Fred G. Monster.
More hot air balloon rides await at the final event in September: The Hot Air Balloons, Fun & Games Festival held at Warren Community College. There will also be arts and crafts vendors, a car show, and carnival-like games and activities to help raise funds for non-profits.
NEW JERSEY LOTTERY FESTIVAL OF BALLOONING
Another popular annual balloon festival is the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning. Held during the last weekend in July at Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ, this show is the largest of its kind in the country.
For those wishing to go aloft, the entire ballooning experience is quite an adventure. While flights take off at sunrise or sunset to take advantage of the day’s lightest wind, the timing also provides the most spectacular views. The whole event can last two-three hours, although the actual flight is about 20-45 minutes long, depending on the weather and flight direction. You’ll be assigned a pilot and guided to the launch field, where the pilot and crew will be working to inflate the balloon, also known as the envelope. You’ll join the pilot in the basket, and then it’s time for takeoff! Enjoy the ride, which may put you at 1,000 feet. When you land (wherever the wind takes you), you can choose to help the pilot and ground crew pack up the balloon before returning to the festival.
If you’re nervous about going up, up and away, opt for a tethered ride. A quick five-minute ride will give you the hot air ballooning experience (floating 75-100 feet in the air!), all while remaining anchored to the ground by tether ropes tied to vehicles below.
Festival-goers who choose not to fly still enjoy an unforgettable experience. Go for the balloons – watch two mass ascensions each day of up to 100 hot air balloons of different shapes, colors, and sizes – and stay to explore hundreds of craft vendors, watch some family-friendly entertainment, and experience interactive displays. The festival’s concerts are another can’t-miss. From kids’ performers to cover bands to headliners, there is music for everyone. Past performances have included world-renowned bands like The Jonas Brothers, Barenaked Ladies, The Beach Boys, and Third Eye Blind.
If you love to get moving, you may want to join the 1,000 runners who register for the festival’s low-impact 5k each year. In one of the most unique races around, participants compete against a backdrop of 100 hot air balloons launching toward the sky. After the race, you can enjoy your full-day festival pass and lawn seating for Sunday afternoon’s headlining concert.