The Adirondack Balloon Festival has been named one of the top 100 events for 2013 in North America by the American Bus Association, county officials learned Aug. 1. Other local nominations for the award were the Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama and ‘My Summer Place: Georgia O’Keeffe,” a series of local events planned for 2013 that focus on the celebrated American artist who shared a summer home on Lake George in the 1920s with photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Noting that Warren County is obtaining more and more publicity as a destination, Kate Johnson added that CNN.com recently chose Lake George as one of its top five getaway destinations.
The Adirondack Balloon Festival — considered the nation’s premier family-oriented event of its kind — is set for this weekend, and it features a tribute to the event’s founder, Walter Grishkot.
Grishkot, who died earlier this year, tirelessly organized, managed and promoted the event for its 38-year history.
At no other balloon festival can spectators see dozens of colorful hot-air balloons take flight and get close enough to help a pilot and crew launch their craft.
This year’s event, set for Thursday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 25, includes six fancifully shaped craft among the 100-plus balloons from across the U.S. and Canada scheduled to participate.
With all activities free of charge, the festival kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Crandall Park in Glens Falls with a performance by country rock group Stony Creek Band, followed by an opening ceremony honoring Grishkot at 5 p.m., and then a liftoff of 15 or more balloons thereafter.
From 6 to 9 p.m., Glens Falls will be hosting a downtown balloon fest block party, which includes a car show with dozens of classic vehicles, various family activities and entertainment, topped off with fireworks.
On Friday, the festival moves to the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury, where gates open at 3 p.m. for craft fair, vendors, and family activities. A launch of 70 or more balloons is to be held at 5 p.m.
On Saturday and Sunday at the airport, activities and breakfast begin at 5 a.m. Eighty to 90 balloons lift off at about 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. both days Vendors open up early and continue all day.
All flights are weather permitting.
The specially shaped balloons include “Airhead Invader” from Warren County, N.J. looking like a menacing space alien, and the fanciful “Purple People Eater” piloted by John Cavin of Menlo, Ga.
The airport liftoffs are so eagerly anticipated that they annually prompt people to get out of bed at 4 a.m. or earlier to get to the airport in time to beat the crowds.
The action at the airport includes an art show, concessions to benefit local charities, military aircraft on display, kites, a rock climbing wall and bounce houses for children, and church services on Sunday morning.
Chasing balloons can be even more fun than watching them launch, and many spectators like the adventure of figuring out routes to drive in following their chosen rig.
Often, spectators assist balloonists’ chase crews at touchdown time, helping fold up the massive balloons.
Spectators are urged to bring their camera because there are plenty of dramatic photo opportunities — but dogs are barred from the grounds.
The festival concludes with Sunday’s late-afternoon launch, when balloons will be available for people to purchase rides.