Up, Up and Away

Saturday will mark the eighth Lycoming County Rotary Club-sponsored Balloonfest. The festival boasts an air show, vendors, BMX shows, races, crafts and, weather permitting, tethered balloon rides.

For Sandy Spencer, a Rotary Club member who has been a key part in organizing every Balloonfest since the first in 2005, it isn’t the balloons, the air show or the skydiving display the she looks forward to most – it’s “the people,” she said. “The attendees who are enjoying themselves and seeing things they don’t often see in this area are an inspiration I think we [the Rotary Club] look forward to knowing that we have done our very best to promote Rotary awareness and offer our community a unique, family-friendly and affordable event.

This year’s show offers an assortment of special attractions, including a skydiving display by the all-female skydiving team Misty Blues, a performance by precision formation flying group Team Aerodynamix, a BMX display by Dialed Action Sports Team, and events for kids like shows from Kingdom Kidz Puppet Ministry and The Magical Illusions of Kyle and Kelly. This year’s Balloonfest will feature new acts as well, including Dan and Galla’s Musical Show (a sort of real-life Culp Family Musical Performance).

Misty Blues will provide the first skydiving jump of the day, with a 30-foot-by-60-foot American Flag in tow. “It is impressive,” said Spencer.

Other highlights include the night airshow and the “Balloon Glow.”

The Balloonfest will also host some interesting events that aren’t necessarily displayed on the online schedule antique tractor and model airplane displays, “cardboard creations” presented by regional educational service agency Blast IU and opportunities to obtain autographs from some of the performers.

Before the event, some of the pilots are scheduled to do programs in four school districts. They’re out to promote “STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning and how that is important in what they do,” Spencer explained.

For some, including new volunteers comprised of both Rotary members and non-members, the Balloonfest will be the first opportunity to delve into the excitement of preparing for and working a large-scale event. For others, like “Balloonmeister” Rebecca Elkins, the Balloonfest has been a regular event for almost a decade. Even returning performers and vendors have formed relationships with the Rotary Club Committee and Balloonfest attendees. “[They] have become favorites and friends,” said Spencer.

Spencer explained that Rotary’s motto “Service Above Self” is not only at the heart of each Balloonfest, but everything that the clubs do. “The event could not happen without the committee whose members exemplify that motto or the many generous sponsors who support us with finances, advertising, products or services. The event has some of the best performers in their respective areas of expertise, and that requires funding to pay for them while keeping the event affordable,” she added. She also expressed her appreciation (as well as that of the Lycoming County Rotary Clubs) to the Lycoming County Fairgrounds Association and Emergency Services for their help and cooperation.

The Balloonfest gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday and will close at 9 p.m. The event will go on rain or shine, though some events will only be held if weather permits. “We have many things to offer that are not weather-dependent at all,” Sandy Spencer said. The Balloonfest will be held at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville.

Advance tickets are available online, and children five and under receive free admission. Comprehensive details about the 2013 Rotary Club Balloonfest can be found at www.lcrotary.com.