Rainy skies or not, Balloon Festival preps to go on


LEWISTON — Great Falls Balloon Festival organizers are watching the skies, hoping that rainy forecasts won’t keep their balloons grounded this weekend.

“We’ve discussed it here and there, but it’s the one thing we can’t do anything about,” said festival treasurer Mell Hamlyn. “As much as we’d like to change it, we can’t.”

Weather forecasts Thursday called for light rain on and off Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Central Maine. Inclement weather gets more likely as the weekend progresses, according to forecasts.

The balloon festival is scheduled to kick off with a balloon launch at 6 a.m. Friday morning, when the forecast calls for merely cloudy skies.

Five more launches are scheduled throughout the weekend — Friday night, Saturday morning and night and Sunday morning and night.

Festival organizers and balloon pilots will make the final call before each flight, Hamlyn said.

“We know that they are talking about scattered thunderstorms on Saturday,” she said. “We’re just hoping they are scattered enough that we can still get most of our activities in.”

It’s a constant concern for balloon pilots and festival organizers. They can’t fly in the rain and won’t launch in heavy winds that could send a balloon off course. Balloon pilots could still launch in foggy conditions, which are also predicted for much of this weekend.

“It depends on where the fog lies,” she said. “If it’s still low lying, they can go up in it. But they only go up if they’re sure the fog is going to burn off pretty quickly.”

Pilots are scheduled to inflate their balloons and keep them grounded at 9 p.m. Friday for the annual moon glow. They don’t want to get their balloons wet however, that could be postponed until Saturday night. And even then, there’s a chance to see some glowing.

“Sometimes in the past, we’ve had candlesticking,” she said. “The pilots just light the propane without the balloons and that’s pretty neat to watch.”

Beyond the balloons, Hamlyn said there are still a host of events that are mostly waterproof.

Historical re-enactors from the local Society for Creative Anachronism group Riding of Ravensbridge will be setting up a medieval camp for the weekend in Auburn’s Bonney Park. They’re scheduled to venture across the pedestrian bridge to Simard-Payne Memorial Park three times daily Saturday and Sunday for fully armored demonstration combat.

Hamlyn said they’ll be there, rain or shine. Most of the scheduled acts will be as well.

“Unless it’s pouring, they’ll go on,” she said. “There is a roof over the stage, so they are mostly covered.”

The featured act this year is the ZuZu African acrobats, scheduled to take the stage at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in Simard-Payne Memorial Park and at 3 p.m. in Auburn’s Festival Plaza, across the river in Auburn.

The Simard-Payne stage will host live music all day Saturday until 10 p.m., featuring Brazen Cane, Veggies by Day, Yellow Brick Road and Skosh.

The Festival Plaza stage will feature live acts until 9:45 p.m. Saturday with Zealous Bellus, Eds Meds, The SkidMarks, Shady Lady and Jeroba Jump.

Entertainment continues Sunday with Mad Science of Maine, the Veayo Twins and local acts on the Simard-Payne Memorial Park stage and Downeast Brass and Brian Patrick on the Festival Plaza stage.

Most of the food vendors are expected to be open, unless light rain turns into a deluge, she said.

And Saturday’s parade, from Auburn’s Great Falls School, up Main Street, across Court Street and down Lincoln Street will go, rain or shine.

“It’s going to be rain or shine,” she said. “We have more than 60 floats scheduled, so it should be a good one.”

[email protected]

Balloons, pancakes and a 5K Sunday morning

LEWISTON — The Great Falls Balloon Festival has always been held the third full weekend in August. The Bridge Run, which is part of the Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K Series, is always held the fourth Sunday of August.

This year, for the first time, their schedules have collided and festival-goers and runners will be at Simard-Payne Memorial Park at the same time on Sunday morning. That means unusually difficult parking and possible traffic congestion on roads around the park.

Organizers for both events realized the conflict a couple of months ago, but each say the vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be manageable.

Weather permitting, the balloon launch is scheduled for 6 a.m., so the first phase of Sunday’s festival events will be finished by the time the 5-kilometer race starts at the Rollerdrome on Riverside Drive in Auburn at 8:30 a.m.

According to event organizers, the real conflict may be with visitors to the park for the pancake breakfast, scheduled for 6 to 10 a.m.

According to Christina Noonan, marketing director for the Great Falls Balloon Festival, organizers anticipate runners coming through the Lewiston park between 8:35 and 9 a.m.

Once they leave the Rollerdrome and cross the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge from Auburn, runners will turn left onto Oxford Street and then head into Simard-Payne, loop through the park, cross the trestle bridge and turn right onto the Riverwalk in Auburn. From there, they will enter Main Street through a tunnel near Gritty McDuff’s and turn right to cross the Longley Bridge.

In past years, the race-portion of Main Street has been closed but will not be closed this year.

After crossing the bridge, runners will head up Main Street and turn right on Canal Street. The Main and Canal streets intersection and Canal Street will be closed to traffic during the race. While the street is closed, Simard-Payne will be accessible only by the Lown bridge.

Runners will continue on Canal to Locust Street, turn right and head downhill to Lincoln Street, make another right and run to Cedar Street, turn left and run back over the Lown bridge. Turning left on Riverside Drive, they will finish in front of the Rollerdrome.

According to Noonan, festival organizers postponed the scheduled start of Family Fun Day to allow time for streets to clear so visitors can find parking. That event will start at Simard-Payne at 10 a.m. with the Fun Run, Toddler Trot and Diaper Dash; registration starts at 9:30 a.m.

As always, motorists are urged to be cautious of runners Sunday morning, and organizers of both events have asked the public for patience while finding parking.

Parking may also be difficult between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday when runners are at Baxter Brewing Company on Mill Street to pick up their race packets. Balloons are scheduled to launch at the park at 6 p.m. that day.

Proceeds from the Bridge Run will go to the Bridge Run Foundation to be used for scholarships for local teens to participate in outdoor activities.

For more information on the race, including same-day registration, go to: triplecrown5k.com/la-bridge-run.

For more information on the Great Falls Balloon Festival, including a full schedule, go to: greatfallsballoonfestival.org.

Let’s do launch

The 23rd annual Great Falls Balloon Festival will take off Friday morning and the Sun Journal will be there with:

More fun: Balloons, pancakes and a 5K Sunday morning