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Giants in the Sky

Join the Fun as Hot Air Balloons Make a Mass Ascent and Color Our New Jersey Skies

There are few moments that are more peaceful than watching a hot air balloon mass ascension, hearing the throaty whoosh of flames licking up from the baskets as one by one the balloons rise from the earth and drift off to the horizon, their fate determined by the ever-shifting wind. 

If you have never witnessed the magic of about 100 balloons rising simultaneously, mark your calendar for the 40th annual New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning, the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, which will be held this year on July 28 to 30 at Solberg Airport in Readington. 

On each day of the festival, weather-permitting, the balloons begin making their ascent around 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.—the times when the air currents are at the most predictable levels for wind speed and direction. From there, they meander the skies over the countryside until the journey ends miles away. 

The festival is known for bringing in the best special-shaped hot air balloons from around the world. This year, play I-Spy with the kids and look for these Instagram-worthy backdrops for a family photo: a bright-pink 65-foot-tall, 750-pound Lucky Pig; a 70-foot-tall replica of the first hot air balloon flight complete with a sheep, a duck and a rooster (the first hot air balloon passengers); a pair of 110-foot-tall bumblebees that hold hands and kiss in mid-flight; an 86-foot-tall Darth Vader and a 62-foot-tall Yoda; an 80-foot-tall, 70-foot-wide old-fashioned alarm clock; and the 100-foot-tall Snowbird penguin.

However, some may argue that the best view comes from above: About 3,500 people take a ride in a hot air balloon at the festival each year. 

Beyond the Balloons
In addition to the hot air balloons, the festival books an exciting roster of performing artists. This year’s lineup includes: Laurie Berkner, a Central New Jersey native who is recognized as the “queen of kids’ music” by People magazine and was the first recording artist to perform in music videos on Nick Jr.; KC and The Sunshine Band, the disco and funk group that is still going strong after 50 years; indie pop and neo soul band Fitz and the Tantrums and alternative rockers Everclear and Lit.

Families can also enjoy a nighttime hot air balloon glow, children’s amusement rides and entertainment, death-defying stunts by the Fearless Flores Family, a variety of vendors, comfort food and more. 

See the full schedule and buy tickets at BalloonFestival.com.

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