LEWISTON, Maine — With a blue sky, a few clouds and a gentle wind, balloons lifted one after another during the 20th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival on Saturday evening. Balloons are scheduled to lift off again at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, the last day of the festival.
With 19 balloons on the field, all went up Saturday except the specialty balloons, which only fly in the morning, said balloon-meister Mickey Reeder.
By 7 p.m. the huge balloons Arky (Noah’s Ark), Gus Guppy and Stinky the Skunk were inflated and tethered at Simard/Payne Memorial Park as children and adults stared and cameras clicked.
All of the festival’s balloon rides, which cost $200 each, sold out, Reeder said.
“I’m trying to find pilots who may have extra room,” she said. “I was just hunting for one for this gal from New Hampshire, but I do not have a slot, not even one.”
Before launch time on the field, Arky pilot Stan Ness said conditions were wonderful. “The winds are mild; the weather conditions are good. The rest of the weekend looks good.”
Arky is the same balloon that was at the festival in 1995, he said. “It’s fun. People love it. It’s different. It’s a great testimony to the Bible and Noah’s ark.” The balloon is owned by His Sky Ministries in Oregon.
The best part of flying Noah’s Ark is how people are attracted to it, Ness said.
Driving down the road, towing the balloon’s trailer, “people pull up beside you and give you the thumbs-up. It’s fun.”
Looking up at balloons high in the sky, Gerard Nadeau of Jay said he’d like to go up. His wife, Tanya, said she would not. “She doesn’t like heights,” he said with a laugh.
This year was their first time attending the festival. “I think it’s great, a good outing,” he said, admiring a balloon with purple stripes.
Nearby, Tiffany Cozzolino stood with her children, twins Marco and Sofia, 7, and Anna, 10. Marco wanted to go up. “Can kids ride?” he asked.
Kathleen Nace of Mesa, Ariz., was snapping pictures. It was her first time, too. “I’m here visiting family. I said this time I’m going to go.”
At the food booths Roger and Jane Turcotte of Auburn stood in line for 30 minutes to get a crispy blooming onion from Habitat for Humanity.
She said it was worth the wait. “This is the only thing I usually get when I come. It’s very good.”
Kristy Morin was selling lobster rolls, pretzels and nachos for the South Lewiston Little League. Business was good, she said. “Today it’s been busy. Last night the rain didn’t stop too many. We couldn’t keep on top of the nachos and cheese. There were a lot of people. The bands were good.”
Ansel Warner in the Kora Shriners booth wore a hot dog hat as he sold hot dogs. “It’s been a great weekend,” he said. “The money we get we donate to the Shriner’s Hospital. What we do is all for the children.”