Aerial photo of the 2016 Great Falls Balloon Festival shows balloons lifting off in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

Pandemic restrictions on large crowds forced the cancellation of the annual Great Falls Balloon Festival this year, a highly popular three-day event that can draw as many as 100,000 people to the Twin Cities. The festival would have been held this weekend.

We recognize the cancellation is a real loss for our community and will livestream a “virtual” launch showcasing two Maine pilots and their balloons at 5:45 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.

One balloon will be piloted by Jim Rodrique of Androscoggin Balloon Adventures (207-783-4574) in Lewiston and the other piloted by Derald Young of Damn Yankee Balloons in Dixfield (207-562-7562).

The launch can be seen live on and on our Facebook page.  The video will also be available to be viewed later.

The location of the launch is not being revealed for safety reasons because, like the Great Falls Balloon Festival Board of Directors, the Sun Journal intends to honor social distancing guidelines for your safety. We do, however, want you to enjoy a “lift” by watching the launch.

Young and Rodrique are regulars at the Great Falls Balloon Festival, and we thank them for their generosity in providing Saturday’s flights.

Rodrique has been flying balloons for more than 20 years, and has served as assistant balloon meister for the festival. His love of ballooning is so great that he has the colorful images of 14 balloons and one powered parachute inked on his leg, including an image of the balloon of his first flight in 1997.

His nickname? Mile High, because he likes to fly so high. On his first flight with Dork, a balloon he built, he flew to 6,800 feet.

Young started flying in the 1960s and earned his private fixed wing pilot’s license in 1970. The next year, when he saw his first balloon, he says he was hooked.

According to his professional profile, in 1985 Young was the first pilot to cross Northumberland Straight, a 13-mile stretch of ocean in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, in a hot air balloon.

He has flown over 3,000 hours in balloons and is a regular at balloon events across the country and in Canada.

A special thank you to Jim and Derald, and we encourage you — our readers — to enjoy the show.

Judith Meyer, Executive Editor

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