Great Falls Balloon Festival goes global, lifts off Friday

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LEWISTON ? Let’s go to Europe, or Africa, or maybe even South America. How about we drop the destination altogether and just travel. The Great Falls Balloon Festival is doing just that for its 23rd year with the theme Let’s Travel.

Taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 21-23, at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston, the festival will be highlighted by the specialty balloons Jewel the Hummingbird, Aquario the Fishbowl and Planet Earth. 

Launches of those and a host of other hot-air balloons will take place, weather permitting, at about 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on each of the three days. 

When the balloons are not flying, the festival will offer a full schedule of entertainment and events beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and lasting through Sunday evening. The fun will include a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday that will be almost double the size of last year’s parade. 

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The Let’s Travel global theme will be enhanced by a number of live acts and presentations.

One of the highly anticipated events will be performances by ZuZu Acrobats, a dynamic African acrobatic group that finished second on the television show “America’s Got Talent.”

Riding of Ravensbridge is a village encampment that involves re-creations of the best parts of medieval and Renaissance civilization by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It will perform multiple times on Saturday and Sunday with demonstrations and re-enactments, while the Imari Sahara Desert Dancers will perform belly-dancing.

Live music will take place throughout the weekend, with a wide range of styles. (Go to www.greatfallsballoonfestival.org for a full schedule.)

The festival’s many food booths will be open day and night with offerings ranging from lobster rolls to fried dough to burritos, including an early pancake breakfast for those watching the morning launches. All booths are run by volunteers from local nonprofit groups.

Also on hand across the festival grounds will be craft and trade vendors with a variety of products for sale. 

The parade will take place on Saturday, starting at about 11 a.m. from the intersection of Academy and High streets in Auburn. It will proceed down Academy Street, turn left onto Main Street, turn right onto Court Street and across the Longley Bridge, and turn right onto Lincoln Street, dispersing at the intersection of Lincoln and Chestnut streets.

Sixty to 75 organizations are expected to take part in the parade. According to Mell Hamlin, Great Falls Balloon Festival board of directors member, that’s almost twice last year’s participation. She said festival organizers are expecting roughly 100,000 people to attend the festival over the course of the event.

Miller Amusements will have carnival rides set up all weekend with Friday being bracelet night. Bracelets will be available for $20 and give riders unlimited access to the rides that night as long as they have the bracelet on.

Great Falls Balloon Festival information

For more information on everything about the balloon festival including:

* The schedule of events

* The balloons 

* Vendors

* Tips on viewing the balloon launches

* How to take a balloon ride

* How to get involved in the festival

* Much more

Go to www.greatfallsballoonfestival.org.

Schedule of events

Friday, Aug. 21

Simard-Payne Memorial Park, Lewiston

6 a.m.: Balloon launch (weather permitting)

4 to 9 p.m.: Children’s area open

4 10 p.m.: Food booths open

4 to 10 p.m.: Carnival

5 to 10 p.m.: Craft and trade vendors open

5 p.m.: Arrival of the balloons (with commentary from pilot Rick Jones)

6 p.m.: Balloon launch (weather permitting)

6 to 6:30 p.m.: Imari Sahara Desert Dancers

7:15 to 8:30 p.m.: The Ricki George Project

8:45 to 10 p.m.: Cold Blue Steel

9 p.m.: Moonglow (rain date: Saturday 8/22)

Festival Plaza, Auburn

4 to 10 p.m.: Food booths open

Bonney Park, Auburn

5 to 9 p.m.: Visit the Riding of Ravensbridge village encampment. The group will have demos throughout the weekend.

Saturday Aug. 22

Simard-Payne Memorial Park, Lewiston

6. a.m.: Balloon launch (weather permitting)

6 to 10 a.m.: Pancake breakfast ($6/person)

10 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Craft and trade vendors open

10 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Carnival

11 a.m.: Festival parade

11 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Children’s Area open

11 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Food booths open

10 to 11 a.m.: Riding of Ravensbridge – fighting, combat archery and fencing demos

12:30 to 1:45 p.m.: Brazen Cane

2 to 3 p.m.: Riding of Ravensbridge – fighting, combat archery and fencing demos

2 to 3:15 p.m.: The Veggies band

3:30 to 5 p.m.: Yellow Brick Road (Elton John tribute band)

5 p.m.: Arrival of the balloons (with commentary from pilot Rick Jones)

5 to 6 p.m.: Riding of Ravensbridge – fighting, combat archery and fencing demos

6 p.m.: Balloon launch

7:15 to 8:30 p.m.: Pat Colwell Band

8:45 to 10 p.m.: Skosh

9 p.m.: Moonglow (rain date, if canceled Friday)

Festival Plaza, Auburn

11 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Food Booths open

Sunday Aug. 23

Simard-Payne Memorial Park, Lewiston

6 a.m.: Balloon launch (weather permitting)

6 to 10 a.m.: Pancake breakfast ($6/person)

9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.: Family Fun Day

11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Children’s area open

11 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Craft and trade vendors open

11 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Food booths open

11 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Carnival

12 p.m.: Rotary Duck Race (Main Street Canal)

12:45 to 1:30 p.m.: Camire School of Dance

1 p.m.: Riding of Ravensbridge – battle re-enactment

1:45 to 2:30 p.m.: Diamond Athletics

2:35 to 3:50 p.m.: The Veayo Twins

4 to 5 p.m.: Riding of Ravensbridge – fighting, combat archery and fencing demos

4 to 5:15 p.m: 4Play

5 p.m.: Arrival of the balloons (with commentary from pilot Rick Jones)

6 p.m.: Balloon launch

Festival Plaza, Auburn

11 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Food booths open

Watch every launch at sunjournal.com

* The Sun Journal’s website will live-stream all six launches, weather permitting.

* Check in before each launch for launch updates if the weather is iffy.

* And check in during the day for updates, action from the festival grounds, interviews and more.

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