HUGHESVILLE - More than a dozen hot air balloons will decorate the autumn skies during the "Balloonfest, Air Show & So Much More" held by the Lycoming County Rotary clubs on Sept. 14 at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville.
This year's sponsors include the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Backyard Broadcasting, Muncy Bank and Trust Co., and Range Resources. Proceeds from the event will go toward funding charity projects around Lycoming County and offsetting the cost of next year's festival.
The festival promises to be bigger and better than ever this year, with a wide variety of performers that are sure to delight the whole family. The event, which is held by rotary members from clubs across Lycoming County, has become a much-loved tradition in the county.
Balloonists work on inflating their vessels at last year’s balloonfest and air show.
Since its inception in 2005, the event has grown significantly. Last year, more than 5,000 people attended. Even more are expected this year, according to Sandy Spencer, festival chairwoman.
"It seems people will come quite a distance for hot air balloons and air show attractions, which are just some of what we offer," Spencer said.
"We have people who return year after year from outside our area," she added.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Balloonfest, Air Show & So Much More
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 14
WHERE: Lycoming County Fairgrounds, Hughesville
That first festival featured hot air balloons, vendors and exhibitions. However, as the years progressed, the event became too big for one club to handle.
Luckily, volunteers from Rotary Clubs all across Lycoming county have stepped forward to lend a hand. This year, members from the city, Hugesville, Montoursville and Muncy Rotary clubs all will be working together to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.
It's all in the spirit of what Rotary stands for, according to Spencer.
"We are a group dedicated towards service and giving back to our communities," she said.
"By working together, we can pool our people, resources, relationships and skills to benefit all the clubs without it being to overwhelming for any one club," Spencer added.
According to Spencer, the event's popularity has a lot to do with the festival's top-quality performers.
"We are very blessed to have the people who work with us. They really are the best at what they do," she said.
Local adrenaline addicts of all ages will have a lot to look forward to at this year's festival. Take, for example, the Misty Blues, an all-female skydiving team who are sure to wow crowds with their death-defying drop into the fairgrounds below.
Weather permitting, the Misty Blues will have their first leap at 11 a.m. The spectacle will involve a unique patriotic tribute, Spencer explained.
"The first lady who comes out of the plane will fall for a few seconds, then open her parachute. Then, the national anthem starts to play and she begins to wave an American flag," Spencer said.
"I've seen it bring people to tears," she added.
The Misty Blues will jump once more around 7:30 p.m., this time carrying glow sticks as they fall.
"They're such nice girls. They go around and hand those glow sticks out to the children once they land," Spencer said.
Shortly afterward, another group of talented individuals will take to the sky when Team AeroDynamix takes off for its precision flying routine. Many of the pilots on the team have built their own planes, and their performance is sure to show spectators exactly what it means to master the craft of flying.
Several pilots from the team will visit local schools and present a STEM program that teaches children how science and math relate to flying, Spencer said. The pilots plan to visit fifth- through seventh-graders in Williasmport, Montoursville, Muncy and Hugesville schools.
Puppets, magicians and musicians will round out the entertainment roster. And, of course, pilots will light up the sky with their brightly colored hot air balloons.
Twelve commercial pilots will be on hand to take visitors up in the sky. Balloons will launch about 5 p.m. Friday. Balloons also may take off at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and at about 7 a.m. on Sunday.
Those who want a balloon ride may purchase their tickets in advance at www.LCRotary.com.
"The flight times, price, weather information, application and waiver are posted," said Spencer.
Spencer explained that balloon rides will be weather dependent. Aside from rain, balloons can be grounded by fog, high winds or any other inclement weather condition.
However, the balloon pilots have innumerable hours of combined experience, to ensure that their passengers and balloons land safely.
"Our first priority is the safety of both our performers and our attendees. The performers are very knowledgeable about what they do and we respect that. They will make every effort to fly or perform, but the decision is ultimately up to them," Spencer said.