PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Crown of Maine Balloon Fest begins Thursday, but already planners of the seventh annual event are seeing an increased interest in those who are lining up to take balloon rides.
“It is going to be a wonderful event,” Theresa Fowler, the executive director of the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday. “We have a number of events going on, both balloon-related and not related to balloons, so there is something for everyone.”
The festival runs from Aug. 26-29.
The Chamber is just one of about 30 businesses and organizations sponsoring this year’s festival.
Anyone with $180 to spare can buy a ticket for a balloon ride. Flights are available from some commercial pilots and will be on a first-come, first-serve 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 festival until the last evening launch Saturday.
Morning launches will be at 5:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday. All launches are planned from the Northern Maine Fairgrounds.
Each launch will depend on the weather, and the actual launch site may change due to wind direction.
At dusk on Friday and Saturday evenings, balloon crews also will be igniting the hot air burners to make their colorful balloons glow.
“We have 13 balloonists who are coming this year,” Fowler said. “This year, we are seeing an increase in interest from people who are seeking balloon rides. Some flights are nearly booked and our Saturday night launch is pretty much sold out.”
The Presque Isle event also caters to more than just balloon lovers.
An amateur photo contest will take place, with participants submitting pictures they took during the 2010 festival for judging in two categories. Entries may be submitted to the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce.
On Thursday, the Presque Isle Elks Club will host a street fair 4 to 10 p.m. on Main Street featuring music, food and other family entertainment.
Events on Friday evening include a barbecue, G-Force Laser Tag, the qualifying road race for the 2010 Ride-Fly-Ride bicycle race and a concert by Ernie and The Automatics, a Boston blues and rock band. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at the Presque Isle High School auditorium.
Saturday’s events will include a citywide yard sale beginning at 8 a.m., and the Presque Isle Kiwanis/KeyBank Youth Day beginning at 11 a.m. at The Forum. That event includes kids’ inflatable fun events and a screening of the movie “Up” starting at 2:30 p.m. Live music will begin at 2 p.m. in Riverside Park and an outdoor dance begins at 8 p.m. at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds.
The 2010 Ride-Fly-Ride bike race is Sunday. Those who qualify on Friday will be able to take part in the unique event. The top two qualifiers from each of six gender-age divisions will be given a hot air balloon ride with their bikes to an undetermined location for the race back to the fairgrounds.
Fowler said the festival is always popular, with between 100 and 150 people taking balloon rides each year.
For information go to the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest website at www.crownofmaineballoonfest.org or call the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce at 764-6561.