|Lift your spirits at this South County, R.I., festival|
|35th Hot Air Balloon Festival at URI|
|By Megan Weeden|
During the weekend of July 19 to 21, the skies above South County will be filled with color for the 35th annual Hot Air Balloon Festival at the University of Rhode Island athletic fields on Route 138 in South Kingstown.
The festival includes the famous hot air balloons in all their splendor, live music, kite flying, carnival rides and games, trapeze acts, crafts, food and a catch-and-release fishing pond.
Balloonists offer rides in the early morning and at dusk, when winds are the calmest.
They also offer tethered rides, in which the balloon remains tied to the ground and rises about 150 feet.
“Every flight is an adventure,” Larry Fortin, a retired balloonist, said. “For most passengers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I enjoy seeing their thrill and joy.”
Fortin flew his own balloon, Spirit of America, for 20 years and now serves as balloonmeister, keeping a close eye on weather conditions, and making sure things run smoothly.
A musical performance by Roomful of Blues kicks off the festival at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and just after sunset, pilots will fire up their hot-air makers and lift their balloons into the twilight sky for the Balloon Glow. A fireworks display will light up the sky Saturday evening.
The festival will also host a barbecue competition for the second year, which will feature a People’s Choice chicken wing cook-off from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Interested tasters can purchase tickets that will allow them to sample barbecue wings prepared by the teams and then vote for their favorite.
Adult admission is $10. Children 14 and under are $5. Families are $25. Parking is free. RV camping is available on site. All proceeds are donated to charities by the Rotary Club of Wakefield.
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