A Lot of Hot Air

May the winds welcome you with softness. May the sun bless you with its warm hands. May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter and sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth. Balloonist’s Prayer

The annual hot air balloon festival promised to be amazing, and since we’d decided that one of our day trip adventures in 2015 would be in the air, we decided to take advantage of a local Maryland festival to look at the balloons, maybe go up on a tethered balloon ride, and photograph the stately beauty of the enormous balloons. (I never ran this post last year, so I figured I’d run it this year just before the festival this year, which is coming up on Preakness Weekend in mid-May.) Thus, we headed out to the festival at Turf Valley one Friday after work.

This hot air balloon festival takes place a the resort every May. Officially titled “Turf Valley’s Preakness Celebration Hot Air Balloon Festival,” the Thursday evening balloon launch apparently went smoothly. That’s how we learned about it — my husband saw the balloons on the way home from driving friends up to Frederick on that Thursday evening.

There were a lot of vendors, some fun music, games and prizes. Interestingly, there also was a walk-in balloon. Retired from flying, the beautiful old balloon now was an interesting exhibit — a lovely playhouse. It is so very cool to walk inside the balloon. Frankly, the littlest children were unable to really appreciate the very cool experience of walking inside a balloon. INSIDE A BALLOON!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate Friday night. What to me seemed like a lulling gentle breeze was more than the big balloons could fly in. Turns out that winds on the surface can’t be more than 7 miles per hour, and winds at 3 thousand feet should be less than 20 miles per hour.

We waited hopefully. Our hopes raised substantially as we watched a balloon crew stretch out a lovely red, white, and blue balloon, and begin inflating it.

It starting puffing out and then briefly lifted from the ground in front of us. But it flapped in the wind, and soon, we realized they were letting it deflate.

We packed up the remnants of our rather expensive but greasy dinner — about $75 for four (gyros, lemonades and waters, fries) — and headed back to the shuttle, which would take us back to our car. Sometimes, disappointment happens. Since there was the possibility of another balloon launch on Saturday morning, my husband and I decided we’d get up early (4 a.m.) and try again the next morning.

And this time, we had much better luck, although the wind still wasn’t perfect. The wind direction would have pushed the balloons toward Baltimore, so the decision was made not to launch, but at least the balloons “stood up” on the ground.

It was pretty awesome! I’d never seen a hot air balloon up close before, so it was a lot of fun.

And by 7:30 a.m., we were headed back home to have breakfast with our sons, who’d decided to sleep in.

Tip #1: Pack a picnic or eat before you get there. Food was very expensive.

Tip #2: There are numerous hot air balloon festivals throughout the mid-Atlantic region during the summer months. Find one near you!

Dogs: Definitely! They even allowed dogs to ride the school buses from the event parking in the fairgrounds.

Hours: Check the website for balloon launch times. Festival in 2015 ran Thursday and Friday evenings 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday mornings 6 a.m. to mid-morning. The 2016 festival is scheduled for May 19-21.

Website: http://www.turfvalley.com/Events/Preakness-R-Celebration-Hot-Air-Balloon-Festival

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