The Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck will host the 28th annual Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival from 4 p.m. on Friday, July 12 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 14. Presented by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event is designed for spectators and adventure-seekers alike.
Want to take a flight in a hot-air balloon, or go aloft on a tethered ride? No problem. A helicopter ride more your speed? Yeah, you can do that, too. Or do you just want to take in the spectacle of more than 100 hot-air balloons launching throughout the weekend? Or view the Illumination Moon Glow on Friday and Saturday evenings: a stationary display of hot-air balloons with their burners fired up, glowing against the night sky? A greater number than ever of the eyecatching “shape balloons” are expected this year – which have included lighthouses, cartoon animals and even a tuxedo balloon – and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome will get into the act, too, with an antique airplane display and flyovers (wind and weather permitting, as is true of all flight activities over the weekend).
In addition to all the activity in the sky, down on terra firma the fairgrounds will be abuzz with plenty of activities for kids and adults all weekend. Children’s fun includes hayrides, two different age-appropriate obstacle courses and a couple of slides, including a 19-foot Wild Wave slide and the 22-foot-high firetruck slide. All kinds of field and sporting games and carnival attractions will keep the young ones entertained, along with shows featuring live raptors and reptiles, magicians, clowns and puppets. Kids under age 16 get a voucher good for eight carnival games with their admission.
Adults can enjoy the craft beverage tap tent or try the “Five-Minute Challenge” escape rooms offered by Headless Horseman. Sunrise yoga will be available Saturday and Sunday while the early morning balloons launch, and hot-air balloon pilots will do presentations throughout the weekend in which they’ll answer frequently asked visitor questions. Add in live music and nearly four dozen food trucks and food vendors on hand, along with an equal number of retail vendors, and visitors should find it a full day.
Schedules have to be kept flexible based on weather conditions, but the plan is for the mass balloon launches to take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The two sunrise launches are free to attend for early birds, with fairground gates opening on Saturday and Sunday at 5 a.m. and a few breakfast vendors on hand. At 9 a.m. the gates close again until noon, when the festival starts and admission is charged.
General admission costs $14 at the gate or $10 in advance online (added tax and fees brings the actual cost to approximately $12.75). A three-day general admission weekend pass costs $42 at the gate or $25 (plus tax and fees) in advance. Seniors and military personnel pay $8 at the gate to get in on Friday at 4 p.m., and admission is free at all times for children under age 3. Parking is plentiful and free.
Helicopter rides and balloon flights will be offered all three days, with tickets available online only in advance. A helicopter ride will cost $70 and a one-hour balloon flight (allow three hours for the entire process) will cost $250 to $275. Tickets to go up for a tethered hot-air balloon experience will be sold for $20 – cash only – on the day of the event. And again, remember all rides and launches are weather and wind permitting; can’t fight Mother Nature.
Visitors should allow extra time for traffic getting to the festival to ensure seeing the balloons inflate and launch. More than 35,000 people attended the last Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival, with at least an equal number expected to attend this year. Updates, including weather information, will be posted on the event website as well as the festival Facebook and Instagram pages.