Fired up: Balloons glow for festival spectators

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LEWISTON — Hundreds of spectators enjoyed a “moonglow” at the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Saturday evening.

Morning rain and evening wind grounded the scheduled launches of more than a dozen balloons Saturday, but two more are scheduled at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday under clear skies.

On Saturday evening, a few balloons were inflated and lit while tethered to the ground just after sunset to create a “moonglow.”

Because there was no rain Saturday night, balloonists were also able to set up their baskets for “candlesticking,” igniting the fuel for a flaming candle effect.

Officials said it was too windy, even on the ground, to inflate the balloons at 6 p.m., as scheduled, because they would be whipped around too much.

Balloons from Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida and Alabama were brought to the three-day festival that began Friday.

Freedom Flyer pilot Mark Fritze from Tallahassee, Florida, said this is his crew’s fourth year attending the festival.

Fritze said that even though they didn’t launch Saturday, they were still having a good time.

“Yesterday’s flight was great, it was nice and calm,” he said. “It’s a beautiful area.”

He said once his team discovered the event four years ago they had so much fun they had to keep coming back.

The gray sky gave a mellow atmosphere to the festival, but the music and vendors kept the party going. A bounce house and bungee jumping game for kids, food and drink vendors and the smell of freshly fried dough were part of the festival.

Carnival rides by Miller’s Amusement were going nonstop Saturday night.

The party really picked up once an Elvis impersonator took the stage, performing some hits for the camped-out crowd.

“Burning Love,” “Love Me Tender” and “Hound Dog” played over the speakers and got the crowd dancing and smiling.

The festival continues Sunday at the park with two launches — weather conditions permitting — and a pancake breakfast, Fun Run, Toddler Trot and Diaper Dash, Family Fun Day from 10 a.m. to noon, Medieval Encampment, bands and Kids Karaoke, food.

For a full schedule see greatfallsballoonfestival.org, or go to https://tinyurl.com/y6wcampw.

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Hot air balloon pilots fire up the burners at the 26th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival in Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Saturday evening. Two launches are set for Sunday morning and evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The car ride home from the Great Falls Balloon Festival was a bit more crowded for sisters Aliza Webb, left, Jade Webb and Iris Webb of New Gloucester on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Terri Powell of Lewiston dances to the Jimi Hendrix tune “Hey Joe” during the 26th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival on Saturday evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Amelia O’Meara, 12, of Waterboro gets a lesson firing the burner in a balloon from pilot Andre Boucher of New Hampshire during the 26th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival on Saturday evening in Lewiston. Balloons did not lift off morning or evening launches because of the weather. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Emma Drown, 7, of Auburn rides in a Bubble Runner during the 26th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival on Saturday evening in Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The rain boots of Great Falls Balloon Festival board member Jenn Clark tell the story Saturday in Lewiston. The morning and evening launches was canceled because of rain. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

After the Friday evening balloon launch was canceled because of weather, Jim and Peggy Stevens of Auburn came to Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston again on Saturday morning to watch the balloons go up. Rain prevented any launches morning and evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Gracie Jewett, left, and her sister, Ella, were disappointed that rain canceled the Saturday morning launch at the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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