LEWISTON — No balloons? No problem.
“There’s plenty enough to keep us entertained,” Jen Garant said. “We’re having a great time, balloons or no balloons.”
For most of the afternoon, it didn’t appear that this would be the case. All-day rain and frequent downpours raised questions about whether there would be any fun on the Great Falls Balloon Festival’s opening day.
“I was really disappointed by the rain,” said Garant, who was on the festival grounds Friday night with her mother and two children. “Then it started to clear a little and I said, let’s try it anyway. When we got down here, it was quiet. Then people just started pouring in — a lot more people than I expected. Everything turned out great.”
By 7 p.m., hundreds of people were on the grounds enjoying a variety of entertainment, from face-painting to Plinko, music and dancing.
“And the bouncy house,” Garant said. “You can’t forget the bouncy house.”
Before long, word spread through the crowd that there would be no balloon launches Friday night. Worse, there would be no Moonglow later in the evening. Add that sad news to overcast skies and a constant drizzle, you’d expect the festival to be awash in gloom.
Not even close.
“Oh, we’re definitely having fun,” said Mike Perry, who recently moved from Augusta to Auburn.
He really didn’t need to state the fact. While music blasted across the field, Perry was engaged in wild dancing with his 3-year-old stepdaughter, Kaydance. The good time was obvious and it was particularly significant for Perry.
“This is my first-ever Balloon Festival,” he said. “I love the fact that everybody here gets along. Everybody is having a good time. There are no problems. It’s just a great atmosphere.”
Meghan Staples, 24, Kaydance’s mother, was more than capable of showing Perry the festival ropes.
“I’m here every year,” Staples said. “I’ve been coming every year since I was little, little.”
A short distance away, Garant was watching her 6-year-old son, Deano, turn cartwheels on the wet grass, his face painted with a Batman design. Every once in a while, he’d pause just long enough to toss a chicken nugget in his mouth. The absence of balloons did not appear to be a deal-breaker.
“We really do love the balloons,” Jen Garant said. “And it would be fun for the kids to see them. But we’re all having a good time. There’s plenty to keep them entertained.”
The forecast for Saturday is not great. More rain, more clouds, more of the nasty stuff that keeps balloons on the ground. Would there be any balloon launches at all?
“Doesn’t matter,” Perry said. “We’re going to be here no matter what, rain or shine. It’s going to be a really fun weekend.”
Our Great Falls Balloon Festival section has stories, photos, videos and social media coverage of the launches and non-launches.