PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Clouds are not the only thing city residents will see when they look up at the sky this week.
Preparations for the sixth annual Crown of Maine Balloon Fest, which runs from Aug. 27 to 30, have been under way for some time. Although the action does not officially begin until Thursday, balloonists already were in the city Monday evening anxiously waiting their sail into the sky.
“We expect to have 12 balloons participating this year,” Theresa Fowler, executive director of the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce, said Monday. “We have a few new participants this year and others who have been participants in past years.”
The PIACC is just one of more than 10 businesses and organizations sponsoring the festival this year.
Anyone with $180 to spare can purchase a ticket for a balloon ride. Flights are available from some commercial pilots. Flights will be on a first-come, first-served basis unless other arrangements are made.
The first balloon launch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday and will be held at the same time each night of the fest until the last evening launch on Saturday.
Morning launches will be at 5:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday. All launches are planned from the Northern Maine Fairgrounds.
All launches are weather dependent, and the actual launch site may change due to wind direction.
Also at the fairgrounds will be the Friday and Saturday evening “balloon glows” of the hot air balloons, which will take place at dusk. During the balloon glows, each balloon crew ignites the hot air burners.
The Presque Isle fest caters to more than just balloon lovers. An amateur photo contest also will take place during the event. Participants can submit pictures they took during the 2008 festival for judging in two categories. Entries may be submitted to the PIACC.
Benefit suppers, artistic events and musical performances will be happening at several sites in the city Saturday. Free kids games will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at The Forum. Musicians will play in Riverside Park at 3 p.m. Saturday.
A citywide yard sale also will be held beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Musical groups also will play Saturday evening at The Connection at The Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center.
Street Fair 2009 will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Vendors and performers will set up shop and the downtown will be closed to traffic so participants can shop, dance, eat and play games.
“The balloon fest always attracts a big crowd that grows each year,” said Fowler. “People are scattered everywhere, watching the balloon launches and the balloon glows. People are coming from further away each year.”
From 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, County Physical Therapy’s annual County Spin Off 2009 will take place. Participants will ride spin bikes at North Street Healthcare to benefit Ryan’s Heart, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping bereaved children learn to cope with their grief over the loss of a parent or other loved one. The organization’s Hearts for Heaven Balloon Release will begin at noon Sunday at the North Street Healthcare’s parking lot. Participants will release 150 heart-shaped balloons in honor of lost loved ones.
For information, go to the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest Web site at www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org or call the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce at 764-6561.