Simba the Lion is one of the two themed specialty balloons expected at this year’s Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston and Auburn. The festival’s theme is “Returning from the Wild,” a reference to the two years the festival was put on hold because of the pandemic. Submitted photo

LEWISTON — The Great Falls Balloon Festival is “Returning from the Wild.”

The three-day event returns to the skies Friday after the pandemic grounded the popular event the past two years.

Thirteen hot-air balloons, two specialty balloons, a parade, food booths, entertainment and more are planned for all three days on both sides of the river.

Launches will take place at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston, but food vendors, entertainment and other activities will take place in Auburn as well, centered around Main Street and Festival Plaza.

The festival’s board of directors had to overcome several challenges to bring the annual tradition back.

“We have had many hurdles that range from tiny to very impactful,” said Tracy Collins, Great Falls Balloon Festival president, explaining the challenges of bringing the festival back for its 28th year.


“We have spent a great deal of time promoting and reminding people we are back and ‘returning from the wild,’ hence the 2022 theme,” she said.

Because of the pandemic, many area businesses the festival relied on throughout the years to help sponsor the event are not able to help this year, Collins said. “Sponsorship is always the biggest challenge, so this year was definitely a hurdle to overcome.”

Similarly, Collins said it was more difficult this year to get hot-air balloonists to attend the festival. “We had a few (balloonists) that relied on their ballooning for their livelihood, and they now have sadly retired.”

Tico the Sloth is one of the two specialty balloons expected at this year’s Great Fall’s Balloon Festival. Submitted photo

Collins said the festival incentivizes balloonists to come to the event.

“We pay for the special shaped balloons, we also pay for the balloonists’ propane, hotels, special pilot packs and rides,” Collins said. “That’s an incentive to drive pilots to fly, besides loving what they do.”

The two specialty balloons featured this year will be Tico the Sloth and Simba the Lion. Both will be flown by members of the Monahan family from Queensbury, New York. The specialty balloons launch in the mornings, weather permitting, and offer tethered launches for the evening sessions.


Returning this year will be the many food and drink booths operated as fundraisers by local nonprofit groups.

“Since our mission is partly to have a venue for the nonprofits to raise money, we want to maximize all openings,” Collins said.

Organizers have also put together a slate of entertainment at both Lewiston and Auburn venues for all three days, as well as a parade Saturday morning from Auburn to Lewiston starting at 11 a.m., a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Saturday, a Family Fun Day in Lewiston from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday, a pancake breakfast at the Lewiston site each morning, and more.

For more information and a complete schedule go to the festival’s Facebook page at

The festival kicks off Friday morning, weather depending, with a 6 a.m. launch. Launches are 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day, weather permitting. The last launch will be Sunday evening.

The festival is free. Organizers expect to see upward of 100,000 visitors.

For those interested in getting more involved with the festival, Collins noted, “We are always looking to add more people to the board, committees and event volunteer staff!”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story