PLAINVILLE — Floating over trees and homes like water over rocks in a calm stream, one hot air balloon pilot described rising into the sky as a magical experience.
“If you can picture a trout stream and the water goes over rocks and around rocks… well, I picture a trout stream in the air,” said Penny Christy, secretary of the Connecticut Lighter Than Air Society and a balloon pilot for around 30 years. “It’s magic, being one with a balloon.”
She will be one of 20 to 30 balloonists coming to the 34th Annual Plainville Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival, which runs from August 24 to 26.
Despite the early hour of the launches Saturday and Sunday morning, Christy said the park is crowded with onlookers admiring the splashes of color rising with the sun. For those in the baskets, the view is even more amazing. “Oh my gosh, it’s magic,” she said. “They haven’t seen a familiar area from the perspective of a balloon.”
“It’s pretty spectacular to see the colors in the sky,” said the festival’s chairperson and company member, Jim Lenois Sr. Firefighters got a chance to learn about the balloons and check out a basket at a safety lesson given by members of the Lighter than Air Society and they have been hard at work preparing for the festival ever since.
“It's a labor of love, it’s something that defines us as a town,” Lenois said. “It’s one of those things that we look forward to it and when we get to it we have a lot of fun, but it’s a whole lot of work.”
Luckily, the department receives enough help from the town that they’re still able to make it out to calls and put on the show. “We get tremendous help from all the organizations in town,” Lenois said. “I look at it as a large community event that everybody has a hand in its success and enjoys in the weekend.”
Running from August 24 through 26, most of the activities will be taking place on Saturday, including two balloon launches, food and crafts vendors, a car show with 100 to 150 antique vehicles and a visit from princesses Elsa, Anna, Belle, and Ariel, with Batman coming out as well.
The fireworks show, which Lenois said Plainville residents support so overwhelmingly that it is almost entirely funded by donations, will be taking place Friday night at 9:30, with arts and craft vendors and food booths also open that day after 5 p.m. The full schedule was posted on Facebook by the fire company.
While he wanted some of the attractions new this year kept a surprise, Lenois said they have many new vendors and a train to transport visitors around the park. Depending on the weather, he estimated that as many as 30,000 to 40,000 visitors might come to Norton Park.
The balloons will make their first appearance at around 7:30 p.m. Friday, with a balloon glow before the fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. They’ll take to the skies Saturday at 6 a.m. and again in the afternoon and on Sunday morning. Despite the early hour, Lenois said the park is packed with thousands of people watching the 20 to 30 balloons come to life.
“They pretty much take up our whole field,” he said.
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