“Being able to watch someone who’s never seen a hot air balloon up close and never been inside a balloon – the look on their face when that balloon leaves the ground is super cool,” said Love. “You provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people.”
The event began in 2004 as “Isle Fest” and has grown every year since, Madore said. This year’s festivities will include a paint event, farmer’s market, live music, charity all-terrain vehicle ride and 5k balloon chase.
On Friday and Saturday night, there will be a “moon glow,” where pilots set up the hot air balloons on the ground and ignite their burners, which will illuminate the balloons, casting a colorful, fiery mist over the launch field, Madore says. .
“It looks like stained glass,” she said.
In addition to untethered balloon rides, there will also be tethered balloon rides, where balloons rise about 40 feet for about five minutes, while remaining anchored to the ground by tether lines, Madore said. These rides are ideal for children and those insecure about untethered flights, she said.
Entrance to the festival is free, but hot air balloon rides are chargeable.
As for the 12 balloons, they come from all over the East Coast, including Massachusetts, Florida, New Hampshire and North Carolina, Madore said. There is also a vetting process to ensure pilots attending the festival are safe, friendly and welcoming, she said.
LaNiece Sirois, executive director of the Aroostook Central Chamber of Commerce, has previously piloted captive hot air balloon rides and crewed non-captive rides, she said.
“They put a lot of people in [the basket] and they can hang around in the air for a few minutes. Then we bring them back down and bring in another group,” Sirois said. “If we hadn’t had this festival, there would be thousands of people who wouldn’t have been able to attend something like this.”
The annual festival also draws tourism to the town of 9,500, bringing together local restaurants, hotels, retail stores and gas stations, according to Sirois. Sales figures for gasoline, retail, accommodation and food services typically increase by around 20-33%, she said.
“We tried to book a hotel last minute for one of our salespeople and it wasn’t an easy task to do, so I think most places are full,” Madore said. “We also have many local campgrounds that are filling up with RVs and tents.”
Governor’s Restaurant and Bakery, a local family restaurant offering burgers and seafood off Highway 1 in Près Isle, saw a 25% increase in sales each year during the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, a said Sirois.
The festival runs from August 25-28, allowing attendees to experience several unique activities before its conclusion.
“You just see the excitement on people’s faces. It changes them. They now have a story,” Sirois said.
Bailey Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @baileyaallen.