Hot-air balloons are what's up in Pittsfield

Union Leader Correspondent
August 02. 2018 11:43PM

A balloonist preps for an early morning tethered ride at Drake Field in Pittsfield, the site of this weekend's 37th annual Hot Air Balloon Rally. (Travis R. Morin)

More than a dozen hot air balloons will light up the skies over Pittsfield this weekend as part of the Suncook Valley Rotary Club’s 37th annual Hot Air Balloon Rally.

Held at Drake Field in Pittsfield, the weekend-long rally will feature hot air balloons taking flight once today, twice on Saturday, and once on Sunday; with night glows today and Saturday once the sun goes down.

In addition to the balloon rally, there will be tethered balloon and helicopter rides, a cornhole tournament, carnival rides and food vendors, demonstrations by Inspire K9’s Training Center, and the Frank H. Donovan 5k Road Race on Sunday morning.

Rotarian and rally co-chair Laura Okrent said the 37-year tradition can be traced to a 1982 business trip when Rotarian Reuben Leavitt found himself seated on a plane next to a man by the name of Ed Lappis.

“Ed happened to be a balloon meister — basically a ringmaster for hot air balloon festivals,” said Okrent. “The two got to talking, Reuben came back to town very excited to pitch the idea to the Rotary Club, and 1983 was our first balloon rally.”

Noting that the original goal of the rally was to bring the community together, Okrent said the longevity of the event has surprised even the professional balloonists.

“The balloonists love to come to Pittsfield, and all of them say that it’s very, very rare to have a rally continue for 37 years,” Okrent said. “Fifteen to 20 years is about the standard life cycle of a balloon rally.”

Okrent said many of the rally’s flight activities will depend on good weather conditions, but added that inflated balloons will be on the ground for attendees to touch and tour.

Fallon Reed, also a Rotarian and rally co-chair, said the event was a staple throughout her childhood.

“I’ve lived in Pittsfield since 1997,” said Reed. “As a kid, my friends and I would go down to the field where the rally was being held, or stay at my house to see if the balloons would fly over us. A few years ago I decided to get involved with the Rotary and now I’m planning the Balloon Rally. It’s nice to be on the other side of this as an adult.”

In a news release, the Rotary wrote that the group is expecting about 10,000 attendees at this year’s rally.

While the event is free, Reed said sales of food, concessions, and other items typically bring from $7,000 to $20,000.

She went on to say that all proceeds will get split between Suncook Valley organizations such as local food pantries and school sports teams, and Rotary International, the international human services arm of the organization.

“Suncook Valley Rotary serves Barnstead, Chichester, Epsom, Loudon, and Pittsfield. The money that we raise goes back into those towns,” said Reed. “It’s a great way to serve the community.”

A full schedule of events and additional information can be found at

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