DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Jody Arno decided to bring a concept she loved from Vermont to Piscataquis County to help bring the community together.
As a result, the inaugural Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival will be held at Charles A. Chase Jr. Memorial Field, May 31-June 2. The festival will combine local vendors in arts, crafts and agriculture with hot air balloons. It was founded by the Kiwanis Club of Dover-Foxcroft and the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce.
“I used to go to the balloon festival in Essex, Vt. When I came to Maine 20 years ago, I thought about doing something here,” said Arno, festival coordinator. “One of the things that intrigued me about the festival in Essex was the way that it actually helped out the local artisans and craftsmen.”
Arno is owner of Raven’s Ridge Camp Care in Dover-Foxcroft and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Dover-Foxcroft.
She said many Maine vendors are already lined up for the festival, and event coordinators are seeking more. Everything from wool spinning to goat cheese and food vendors are scheduled for the event. Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Company also will be on hand.
“One of the biggest expenses for a small business is advertising,” said Arno. “It’s hard to get that advertising out there. This is a great way to get them out there in the community.”
Gate fees will be kept to $1, so that patrons will have more money to spend at the vendors.
Educational series are also being planned for the festival, Arno said, including boatbuilding, maple syrup making and snowshoe spinning.
The festival’s main attraction will of course be the hot air balloons. Eleven balloons will be on hand, said Arno. Balloon flights will be available in the morning and afternoons on Friday and Saturday and in the morning on Sunday.
A balloon flight is $225 per person, and will be a three-hour process. The flight will last about one hour, she said. Tethered rides will also be offered for $15-25, where patrons will be in the air for about 10 minutes.
Arno said being up in a hot air balloon is an experience like no other.
“It’s not a like being in a plane or helicopter,” she said. “You’re actually floating with the air itself. There’s no feeling of vertigo or being tousled around. There’s nothing else like it. It’s fabulous.”