Wouldn’t you like to ride in a beautiful balloon? Or if you’re not that adventurous, stand on solid ground and watch one – or 100 – silently glide up, up and away? You’re in luck: The 26th annual Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival lifts off this weekend from locations in Poughquag and Red Hook. Hosted by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the three-day event has expanded festival hours this year with fun activities going on most of the day on Friday and all day on Saturday and Sunday.
As designated “Balloonmeisters” for this year’s festival, Michele and Roger Hooper of Hudson Valley Balloon Adventures in East Fishkill head a lineup of 20 expert balloonists. Read their individual bios and credits on the event website to understand how each came to the sport and stuck with it, quite a few of whom took their first rides as kids. Many of the pilots involved in the Dutchess County festival have flown balloons in foreign lands; all have racked up thousands of airtime hours, professionally and casually.
New this year, thanks to the folks at Barton Orchards (Michele Hooper is the director of operations at Barton Orchards in Poughquag and LaGrange), lots of family activities will be offered for the entertainment of “grounded” attendees. And everyone can enjoy old favorites like the inspiring spectacle of balloons lit up after dark called “Moon Glow” on Saturday night, tether rides on balloons tied securely to the ground with ropes that allow for just enough liftoff to give riders a thrill and actual rides-in-the-sky in the hot-air balloons.
At Barton Orchards, the gates open at 12 noon on Friday for the festival and all activities. General admission costs $10 in advance, which includes an all-day activities pass. A limited number of tickets will be available at the gate for $12. Children aged 3 and under get in free. Music and entertainment from 1 to 10 p.m. will include Nashville Drive, the Americana Oak Band, FDR Drive and Rob Daniels Acoustic, plus a 6 p.m. mass launch of balloons and fireworks at 9:15 p.m. On Saturday, music will be provided by the Michael Dell Band, Lucky House, Thunder Ridge and Backbeat; on Sunday, it’s Bill’s Toupee and Cruise Control.
Children’s activities include crafts, a petting zoo, a hay maze, hayrides, a haunted house and a Fun Zone with a bounce pad, pedal karts, train ride, cow train, ball toss, right-turn maze, labyrinth, big tube slides and more. Plus, there’ll be food trucks, a taproom, a bakery and market.
Festival hours at Barton Orchards are Friday, July 8 from 12 noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, July 9 from 5 to 7 a.m. (mass launch) and 12 noon to 10 p.m., Sunday, July 10, 5 to 7 a.m. (mass launch) and 12 noon to 7 p.m.
At Migliorelli Farm, where admission and parking are free, festivities kick off at 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9. One balloon will launch each afternoon at 6 p.m., and concessions and activities including tether rides will be available until 7 p.m. For updates, parking information and any other questions about the weekend, call the Chamber’s Balloon hotline at the number below, sponsored by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. Sorry, no dogs except service dogs are allowed at the Festival.
Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival, Friday-Sunday, July 8-10, free & ticketed activities, Barton Orchards, 63 Apple Tree Lane, Poughquag, Migliorelli Farm, 245 Guski Road, Red Hook; (845) 454-1701, www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival.