To the editor:
It is a treat every year to see skies filled with the beautiful colors of balloons during our Crown of Maine Balloon Festival. This event has grown so much from its early days and we are fortunate to be able to host it.
Organizers who coordinate schedules, pilots, vendors, volunteers and many other elements to create the festival are to be commended, as are the pilots and crews who share their love of ballooning with The County.
That said, with all respect and thanks to the Northern Maine Fair Association for allowing the grounds to be used for the festival, I think it is time to find a new location.
If anyone has had the privilege of watching crews ready a balloon for liftoff, you know it takes considerable space and many hands to set one aloft. Multiply that by 12 or more balloons, and you can imagine the area involved. With the influx of spectators and vehicles, as well as fairgrounds facilities and power lines, it’s understandable why pilots favor open spaces to fly from.
While the lack of a mass ascension Friday and Saturday evenings due to wind conditions was disappointing, it’s also understandable from a safety perspective; however, there is another safety issue worth mentioning: traffic.
The announcement came over the barely audible loudspeaker that the launches were going to take place “at different sites along Route 1.” This, of course, sent eager spectators to their vehicles. To empty out a packed fairgrounds is no easy task, and I was surprised to see no one helping direct traffic out of the fairgrounds. Secondly, the numbers of cars headed along Route 1 looking for balloons, some parking along the shoulder, is a dangerous thing, a fact soberly brought home when an accident occurred.
Perhaps an alternate location with plenty of open space for balloonists, crews and spectators needs to be considered. I would hate to have anything hamper this beautiful festival and hope organizers can find ways to provide for safety as well as the enjoyment of all concerned.