HILLSBOROUGH - Get ready to float above the festivities and fun at the Hillsborough Balloon Festival and Fair.
The four-day event is set to take flight July 17 through July 20, with hot air balloon rides, tethered flights, carnival rides, vendors, artists and live entertainment.
Taking over Grimes Field each July, the festival brings 30,000 visitors to the area, according to Virginia Leiby, executive director of the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce. The impressive number of fair attractions has grown over the years as the former Hillsborough Firemen's Weekend and the original Hillsborough Balloon Festival merged to offer more festivities.
The festival and fair is sponsored by the Hillsborough Civic Organization and organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club and the Hillsborough Fire Department.
According to Leiby, more than 50 vendors are expected at this year's festival. On Friday evening, guests can watch the balloons create a "Night Glow," which isn't a ride, but an impressive show.
At dusk, weather permitting, a half dozen or more balloons will inflate and a white flame is created with their propane burners, which illuminates the balloons and makes them glow.
Saturday night, a large fireworks display ends the evening with a bang, but the fun returns the next day with The Hometown Parade stepping off on Sunday, July 20, at noon from the Hillsboro-Deering School complex on School Street and ending at Grimes Field.
Next visitors can enjoy watching an old-fashioned firemen's muster on Sunday afternoon, featuring competitions among the area fire departments.
The carnival midway will be open throughout the festival. Recently, an artists fair was established, sponsored by the Hillsborough Area Artisans.
But the biggest thrill of the weekend are the hot air balloon rides, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings (weather permitting).
Flights take off as close to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. as possible each of those days and last anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. The length of the flight is heavily dependent upon the winds and weather conditions of the day.
The cost for a ride is $200 per passenger, and most balloons can carry three to five passengers as well as the pilot. Cash, checks and all major credit cards are accepted. If a full flight is too much for your nerves, tethered rides are offered.
Riders will be accompanied by the pilot and will "go up" about 50 feet and then come back down. Tethered rides are great for younger visitors or those still uncertain about flying. The cost is $15 per person to go up for about five minutes.
Admission to the festival is free, parking is $5 and carnival and balloon rides are extra. For more information and carnival ride special package pricing, visit www.balloonfestival.org.