AUBURN — For weeks, organizers of the 2019 Great Falls Balloon Festival have been updating their Facebook page at least once a day.

“Single digits!” they wrote last week when the countdown to the festival got to nine days.

“Eight days!” they wrote a day later, adding a photo of a balloon hovering over the Twin Cities with the number 8 floating nearby.

On Friday, they posted a photo of Smokey the Bear — this year’s festival mascot — wishing Smokey a happy 75th birthday.

Excited for the festival?

You could say that.


“We will continue to offer a jam-packed weekend and carry on our fantastic traditions,” according to a giddy letter from the festival board of directors, “and we may even throw in a few new and exciting things too!”

On the event’s website, festival coordinators created a countdown clock to tick away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until go time. At about suppertime Friday, the clock was at 6 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes. By Monday, that will be down to just three days and some change.

In case you have not done the math, the 27th annual festival will stretch over the weekend of Aug. 16-18, and it will feature all the familiar sites — and a good array of stuff that is new.

“Balloon launches are 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” according to the festival web page. “Weather permitting, the moon glow will illuminate Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Friday night. It is quite a site to see! Come on down and enjoy a ride — if that is not for you, there will be tethered rides available Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the main field.”

“Both stages, Lewiston and Auburn, will be full of great entertainment all weekend,” the board of directors continue. “We look forward to checking out our local talent at open mic night on Friday night on our Auburn stage. Or enjoy some karaoke on the Lewiston stage on Saturday afternoon. There is something for everyone, we hope you enjoy!”

The Medieval Encampment, from the Society for Creative Anachromism, will return to Bonney Park this year.


“Take a step back in time and visit the encampment,” the board advises, “They have events planned all weekend for your enjoyment.”

Craft and trade vendors will line the park and the carnival will be nearby, as well.

The festival theme this year centers on bees, bears and fire prevention.

“Bee Safe,” the theme advises. “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

“This year’s theme was based on Smokey Bear celebrating a major milestone: his 75th Birthday!” according to a festival announcement. “We welcome you to come and celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th by seeing him bigger than ever and joined by two more special friends.”

The balloon festival, held each year on the banks of the Androscoggin River, was launched in 1993 as a way of attracting tourists and enabling various nonprofit groups to raise awareness to their causes. The festival is said to attract 100,000 visitors each year from all over the world.

For more on this year’s festival, including a schedule of events and information on taking a balloon ride, visit:

A Smokey the Bear balloon, coming this week to the Great Falls Balloon Festival, which starts Friday. Great Falls Balloon Festival photo

Balloons touch down on the Androscoggin River during the 2016 Great Falls Balloon Festival. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

An aerial photo of the 2016 Great Falls Balloon Festival. Russ Dillingham Sun Journal

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