LEWISTON — Sunday evening’s launch was called off due to high winds, but the 22nd Great Falls Balloon Festival held a morning launch and had plenty of afternoon sunshine.

Clouds parted as the band Audio Vibe belted out “Don’t You Forget about Me” by Simple Minds.

Oikos handed out free Greek yogurt. Kara Thill, 3, scooped some pineapple yogurt into her mouth and declared, “Mmmm . . . delicious.”

When the Oikos people were asked if handing out free yogurt to passersby created any tension between them and the fried dough guy, they said it was tense at first, but they had since all learned to get along.

The festival had a little bit of something for everyone. There was a guy dressed as one of the Ghostbusters, complete with ghost trap and proton pack. There were pirates mingling among panhandlers. Henna, you ask? Without a doubt. Hardwood flooring? Look no further.

Moving among the people close to the Sun Journal tent, a bachelorette party was ending a long day of manicures, dress shopping and fine dining. Decked out in a sash and tiara, bride-to-be Jamie Monzo of Hanover, N.H., said the group was originally from the Oxford Hills area and have been regulars at the balloon fest.


Bridesmaid Tara Monzo from Portsmouth, N.H., was holding out hope for an evening launch.

“We need the balloons,” Monzo said. “This is the finale.”

Danielle Garneau of Mechanic Falls set aside her fear of heights and took a balloon ride after a friend gave her and her husband, Sean, tickets for the Sunday-morning launch.

“I have been to all 22 Great Falls Balloon Festivals,” Garneau said. “I have loved hot air balloons since I was a kid — I have always wanted to go up in one, but I am afraid of heights and never thought I would get the opportunity to actually go up in one.”

Garneau said she and her husband had the opportunity to ride in her favorite balloon, Great Balls of Fire. She said her fondness for that balloon made the experience all the more wonderful.

“My husband is not the balloon fanatic that I am, but he shares in my excitement,” Garneau said. She had worried that the morning launch would be canceled before she could get her chance to fly — but she said it “went off without a hitch.”


“The nerves kicked in, but once you were off the ground and going up, it was so quiet and peaceful and just everything I had hoped it would be,” Garneau said.

She said her pilot, Bill Whidden, and his wife, Trish, who operate out of Florida, were wonderful hosts.

“We were very lucky to have been with them, and they made this ride such a wonderful, memorable trip that I will never forget,” she said.

“We may not have had sunny skies, but it was great to be able to have the experience and memories,” Garneau said. “All of our family and friends came to see us off and became our own personal paparazzi as we were flying through the city. It was great!”

There were more firsts at the festival.

Alvie Ballard, visited from Cumberland, R.I.  It was his first balloon festival.


“I thought it was really great,” he said.

Ballard said he had never close to hot air balloons.

“It’s something else,” he said of being able to stand right next to balloons as they were filled and prepared for launch. “It’s something really great,” he said.

The parrot (Pete) and sun (Sunny) balloons were the designs that struck Ballard the most, as well as the single-man balloon piloted by Jim Rodrigue of Lewiston.

Ballard said he enjoyed walking along the riverwalk from Auburn to Lewiston, watching the bright-colored shapes in the sky.

“I even got to see the governor of Maine,” Ballard said of his experiences on Saturday. The governor was talking about a new air conditioning system that had been installed in the Blaine House, he said. Ballard said that he and Jane Jack of Auburn stood and chatted briefly with the governor, asking questions about the system before moving on.


The Lewiston High School Swim Boosters occupied an entire corner of the midway area, operating several tents filled with volunteer swimmers and their parents.

Leading the crew in blue, Jeff Charest said the boosters were running games, face-painting, a bounce house and pony rides — all with no overhead or expense to the swim boosters except the bounce-house rental.

He said that it had been a great weekend for the boosters.

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Live Blog Sunday Evening Launch


If you couldn’t make it to the Great Falls Balloon Festival during the weekend, you can still watch each balloon launch on SunJournal.com. We will be sharing photos and videos of the festival fun in our social networks.

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