LEWISTON — For the fourth time in two days, strong winds and the potential for rain forced the Great Falls Balloon Festival to cancel its launch at Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

Throughout Saturday afternoon, people expressed a hesitant optimism that the winds would subside and that the evening launch would start at 6 p.m. as scheduled, despite the cancellation of the morning launch 12 hours earlier.

Bud Haugen, of Lewiston, who was at the festival with his wife, Diane, and his two grandchildren, Karsyn and Kameron, looked into the gray, cloud-laden sky around 3:30 p.m. and shrugged.

“It’s not looking too promising right now,” Haugen said.

That didn’t stop him and Kameron from throwing a Frisbee back and forth on the park’s playing field.

Haugen said he and his family would have attended the festival rain or shine.


Other families expressed a similar sentiment. Overcast skies and strong winds weren’t going to dampen their moods.

Angela and Marc Henson, of Mechanic Falls, said their three children had been having fun all afternoon and that weather didn’t play a factor in deciding whether they would attend the festival.

“I mean, it’s the balloon festival,” said Marc, who grew up in Auburn. “You have to go to the balloon festival, even if it’s cloudy.”

At the information booth near the entrance to the festival, Nathan Sessions, the festival’s media director, said that he and other volunteers had a whiteboard that they used to update festival goers about the status of the launch.

Around 3:30 p.m., the whiteboard said the evening launch was set to proceed as planned.

Sessions said that about a half hour before every launch, all of the balloon pilots meet at an “isolated location” to assess the weather conditions and determine whether it looks promising.


“After that, they reach a team decision whether or not to cancel the launch or not,” Sessions said. “Even if a majority of the pilots decide to launch, each individual pilot can decide whether or not he’s comfortable with it.”

However, around 5:30 p.m., volunteers changed the status to say “weather permitting,” and the bad news finally came just after 6 p.m.: The launch was being canceled due to strong winds and unfavorable weather conditions.

Sydney Gilman, of Sanford, attending the festival for the first time with her two nieces and a friend, didn’t seem bothered by the cancellation.

“There was plenty to do,” Gilman said. “My nieces went on a pony ride and gave it a thumbs-up, so we’re staying busy and having fun.”

Asked whether they were disappointed by the cancellation of the launch, Gilman shook her head.

“No,” Gilman said. “As long as it doesn’t rain, I don’t mind at all.”


The balloon festival will have three more chances for a successful launch: 6 a.m. Sunday morning, 6 p.m. Sunday evening, and an additional Monday launch at 6 a.m.

As the festival’s second day came to an end, Sessions said that there was one thing that the weather wouldn’t stop from happening: Saturday’s 9 p.m. fireworks show over the Great Falls.

“That’s going to be rain or shine,” Sessions said. “Weather won’t get in the way of that.”


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