PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Though the Crown of Maine Balloon Festival kicked off Thursday evening without the scheduled balloon launch, due to weather patterns, organizers thus far expect all other flights to happen as planned.
On Aug. 22, crowds lined across the fence that separated the fields of the Northern Maine Fairgrounds from the parking lot, hoping to watch the 14 pilots launch their colorful balloons for the first time during the 16th annual festival. But wind gusts of up to 17 miles per hour proved much too fast and dangerous for any balloon to take off.
“Usually pilots look for wind speeds of only five to eight miles per hour,” said balloon festival co-chair Floyd Rockholt, shortly after the announcement that no balloons would launch. “The dark clouds this evening are also dangerous because they could pull balloons off course.”
But on the morning of Friday, Aug. 23, according to the balloon festival Facebook page, all flights occurred as expected, with wind speeds much calmer than the night before. The next mass ascension is planned for this evening at 5:30 p.m., with the remaining flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday morning at 5:30 and Saturday evening at 5:30.
Rockholt reminded folks that all flights are subject to be canceled due to weather trends. He said that the pilots will meet minutes before each flight to discuss current weather patterns and whether the trends will allow them to launch.
Though all flights initially were close to being sold out, the festival committee has saved extra tickets in order to place people from Thursday’s canceled flight onto another flight.
“The rest of the weekend is looking really nice right now, but the problem with weather is that it changes,” Rockholt said.
Another popular festival event is the balloon glow, which will occur at dusk on Friday and Saturday evenings. Of the 14 pilots, six will participate in Friday’s balloon glow while seven will take part in Saturday’s glow.
The balloon festival will host many activities throughout the weekend, including a craft and food vendor fair at The Forum from 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a Fun on the Field afternoon for children from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Community members will have the chance to meet the pilots on Saturday during a breakfast held at the Presque Isle Elks Lodge from 7 to 10 a.m. or the pilot meet and greet from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Tickets for tethered balloon rides are available on a first-come-first-served basis beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with rides beginning at 6:30 both evenings.
For a complete schedule of festival events, go to https://www.combf.org/.