Up, Up & Away: The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning

Soar above the Garden State surrounded by colorful balloons and blue skies!

Balloons typically coast no faster than 8-10 miles per hour, perfect for taking in the view and capturing photos.
Photo by Laura Moss

One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country. You’re in for an amazing air adventure at this year’s 36th annual event at the Solberg Airport in Readington.

North America’s first manned hot-air balloon flight touched down in southern Jersey 225 years ago. French aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard piloted a yellow-silk balloon filled with hydrogen and landed in Deptford Township. Some local farmers were not happy.

At the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, you can get a birds-eye view of the Garden State during five lift-offs: Fri, 6:30 pm; Sat & Sun, 6:30 am & 6:30 pm. Sunrise and sunset are when winds are calmest.

Flights range from 20-45 minutes, weather-permitting. The entire ballooning experience takes two-three hours, including set up, the flight, pack up and the return trip.

Each balloon has a ground crew that “chases” the balloon in a vehicle. At the landing spot, the crew packs up the balloon and brings passengers back to the festival.

 

 

One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Before ascension, the pilots meet for a briefing to discuss weather conditions and landing. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
The envelope (the balloon) is made out of nylon, much like a parachute. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Kim Blackwell, wife of pilot Neal, holds down the crown line. She acts as the balloon's anchor. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Controls inside the whicker basket. Most balloons at this festival have a basket occupancy of two-six passengers, including the pilot. Photo by Laura Moss

General admission to the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is $12 for children ages 4-12 and $30 for adults. Hot-air balloon rides cost an additional $225-$250. Tethered rides, meaning the balloons are tied to vehicles with ropes, are also available for purchase on-site for $20 per person. These rides last about five minutes.

One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.

The End of the Rainbow: Crew members fill the envelopes with air using large fans. Then, a test helium balloon is sent into the air to check the wind direction. Finally, the pilot starts up the burners. Photo by Laura Moss

One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.

Let’s Light It Up: Pilot Tony DiCocco turns on the burners connected to propane tanks. His balloon is called Black Diamond. Photo by Laura Moss

One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Amusements rides offer additional family-fun. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
John Petrehn of Magnififlight Hot Air Ballooning keeps a themed-balloon inflated. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Some balloons remain tethered thoughout the festival, such as the Bimbo Bear. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
Chyna Glenn, a meteorologist, poses among colorful balloons during last year's festival. Photo by Laura Moss
One-hundred hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors will fill the sky above Hunterdon County on July 27-29 during the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest event of its kind in the country.
An aerial acrobatic show at last year's balloon festival. The performer did stunts while harnessed to a giant helium balloon. Photo by Laura Moss

 

 

Back on the ground, enjoy performances from kiddie-rock artist Laurie Berkner (Friday, 1:30 pm), Andy Grammer (Friday, 8 pm), Lifehouse (Saturday, 8 pm) and Creedence Clearwater Revisited (Sunday, 3 pm). There will be a fireworks show at 9:30 pm on Friday, July 27. Two human cannonball shows, an aerial acrobatic show, a magician and amusement rides offer even more fun. On Sunday, festival goers can enjoy 7 am yoga and the Running with the Balloons 5K at 8 am.

Floating Away: Once you’re up in the air, enjoy the birds-eye view of the Garden State! Photo by Laura Moss

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