For some, the festival was a way to make money for charity. For others, it was a way to have fun with family.   

For 7-year-old Adriana Ellis of Farmingdale, it was all about the balloons.

“Mama, look at that one!” she squealed, jumping up and down as a rainbow-colored balloon slowly rose above the crowd Saturday evening. “I want a ride!”

Festival-goers and balloonists enjoyed some of the best weather the festival has seen in years. With little wind and clear skies, all 28 balloons took to the air Saturday morning, rising in waves until the sky was filled with color.

“It’s probably as beautiful of a launch as we’ve had,” balloon meister John Reeder said.  

Shari Gosselin of Lewiston rode in a jack-in-the-box-shaped balloon, one of two speciality balloons at the festival. By 7 a.m. she was floating over the falls, watching the other balloons in the distance. Her balloon briefly did a “splash and dash,” purposely dipping low enough so the bottom of the basket touched water. Then it lifted higher and floated over the city.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “We went over my parents’ house. My mother was out on the porch, so I got to wave to her. “

People packed the park throughout the day. Although clouds threatened wet weather, vendors remained busy into the evening.

Sarah Schlax, 16, staffed a soda booth for the Lewiston High School music association. “Well, it hasn’t rained yet,” she said.

Beside her, 16-year-old Heather MacNeill nodded emphatically. “That’s always good.”

A half-hour later, it did begin to sprinkle, but that little bit of rain wasn’t enough to put off the launch. As crowds gathered to watch, crews filled balloon after balloon with hot air. Nearly all got into the air.

Shawna Ellis brought her two daughters, Adriana and 3-year-old Alexis, to the festival. Standing in the middle of the park, they were surrounded on all sides by balloons getting prepped for flight

Balloons used to float over Ellis’ home when she was a child. She wanted her own daughters to experience the thrill of watching them fly.

“I’ve always had a fascination with hot-air balloons,” she said as one began to rise next to her.  “It still gives me goosebumps.”

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