Thursday, July 24, 2014

NJ QuickChek Balloon Festival

I am proud to announce that NJ is home to one of the largest balloon festivals in the USA, the QuickChek Festival of ballooning. Over 100 balloons ascend twice daily (weather permitting) the last weekend in July every year. In addition to the balloons, the festival is packed with other activities to keep you entertained, with arts and crafts vendors, rides for the kids, a rock wall to get your workout in, and plenty of food to go around.

NJ QuickChek balloon festival
Very picture worthy sight!

Riding in the balloon had been on my bucket list since I was a child, and the time finally came to do it! Larissa from the traveling mortician and myself had signed up for a friday evening ascent. The day of, the weather wasn't holding up. It was about 90 degrees, one of the most humid days we had ever experienced in NJ, and there were thunderstorms on and off all day.

It started to downpour and we ran for cover, barely avoiding getting soaked. We were miserable, but still hoping for the slightest chance the weather would pass through and we would get our chance. After all, who knew when we would get an opportunity to do this again? It would be at least another year of waiting as it was an annual festival.

The launch area was on top of their wind measurements, using a flag to indicate whether the ascent was a no go or if we would take flight that day. Red =  no go , Green = let's start inflating those balloons and get to it.

We anxiously waited in a tented area with hundreds of other balloon rider hopefuls for the flag to change from red to green. Like a flip of a switch, the sky cleared up and the sun came out! Within 10 minutes time, the wind had died down enough and we got the green flag!

NJ Balloon festival
Our balloon!

The crew inflated the balloon and then we hopped into the basket. There is no door on the basket, so your left to jump into it hurdle style. No problem as we would have done anything to get in the air at this point! Finally, after hours of deliberation, we left the ground and took flight! We stayed low to the ground at first and then ascended a little higher. The heat from the balloon radiated on our heads, but we didn't care as we were in awe of the views! We could see many of the other balloons in the distance, and it was an exhilarating experience to finally be seeing this from the air instead of watching on the air field below!

NJ Balloon festival
Ready to take off!

NJ balloon festival
View from the inside
We landed not far from the festival grounds in an open field. A follow truck came to assist the pilot in packing up the balloon and then gave u a ride back to the festival. 

This truly was a once in a lifetime bucket list experience, and I highly recommend it!

NJ balloon festival
Darth Vader makes an appearance

NJ balloon festival
Representing NJ!

NJ balloon festival
One of the specialty balloons
Tip: If you buy a ride for the festival, it will cost you about $250. Book for a Friday evening and leave that entire weekend free! If the weather is bad, they will give you the opportunity to switch your ride to either Saturday or Sunday, morning or evening, as long as it isn't completely sold out. We were stuck because we were unavailable to do it any other time, and that ultimately effected the quality of our ride. It was still worth the amazing experience though!

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