A high-flying time at Pittsfield hot air balloon show

Sunday News Correspondent
August 06. 2017 12:42AM
Woma, piloted by Rick Jones, gains altitude in an early-morning flight on Friday. (Nicole Goodhue Boyd/Union Leader)

PITTSFIELD - Rain did little to dampen this year's hot air balloon rally.

Pilots were able to take off for the morning flights on Friday and Saturday at the 36th annual Hot Air Balloon Rally, though rain had canceled the night lift off on Friday.

"It was a little overcast, but it was clear enough for the pilots," said Fallon Reed, co-chair of the Suncook Rotary Club and one of the event organizers, of the Saturday morning launch.

The Drake Field festival ends today with a 5 a.m. final launch followed by an awards ceremony and a 5K road race.

Reed, who grew up in Pittsfield, gears up for the festival with passion and pride.

"I've been wearing my balloon rally paraphernalia for over a week now," she said.

Having grown up attending the balloon rally to now helping run it is surreal, Reed said.

"It's nice to see how much the community can come together," she said.

In all, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people attend the three-day event. Reed said even with the temperamental weather, traffic into the festival has been constant.

"Even if it were to wash out for the rest of the weekend, it's already been very successful," she said.

Local vendors, like Mike's Meat Shoppe and the Pittsfield Players, and other organizations, like the Alton Rotary Club, came out to help with the rally. Reed said the volunteers are the driving force that ensures the festival's success each year.

The event started 36 years ago as a small community festival and has continued to be a celebration for local residents.

"It's what our town is known for and it's what we all love," Reed said.

Each year attendees have a lot to choose from, whether its riding carnival rides, flying in helicopters or eating classic fried fair food. This year, 15 different balloons were at the festival.

Some pilots were local, like Thomas Stodolski and his balloon "Never Too Old" out of Nashua, and Rick Jones and his balloon "Missing Bear" out of Concord. Others came from places like Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut.

This year also featured a new guest: Scorch, the 145 foot dragon balloon - just over twice the size of an average hot air balloon - owned by Keith Sproul of New Jersey. Though too big to fly in the area, the balloon was inflated for the Saturday night "glow" - when pilots fire up their burners to illuminate their balloons.

The rally is the biggest fundraiser for the Rotary Club, which is comprised of a surrounding towns, including Pittsfield, Chichester and Barnstead.

Funds from the festival support service projects in towns including Barnstead, Chichester, Concord, Epsom, Loudon, Pembroke, Penacook and Pittsfield.

"Every penny earned goes back into the community," Reed said.
Woma piloted by Rick Jones gains altitude in the early morning Friday, Aug. 4, before the 36th Annual Suncook Valley Rotary Hot Air Balloon Rally at Drake Field in Pittsfield. (Nicole Goodhue Boyd/Union Leader)

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