READINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (Hunterdon County) – Before heading out to the 35th Annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, which starts this Friday and runs through Sunday, here is what you need to know.
Buy your tickets in advance. Organizers expect thousands of people over the three days at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning at Solberg Airport, so to avoid lines and save money, buy tickets in advance online or at any QuickChek store. Adult general admission is $24 before Thursday and $35 at the gate. Tickets for children ages 4 to 12 are $10 before Thursday and $15 at the gate, and all general admission tickets include lawn seating for concerts. Children 3 and under are free.
What is the best time for watching the balloons? Festival organizers suggests coming early to the 6:30 a.m. ascensions on Saturday and Sunday if you want to see balloons and beat the crowd of the 6:30 p.m. ascensions each night.
Want to ride in a hot air balloon? Balloon rides at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning cost $225.00 per person for a morning flight and $250.00 per person for an evening flight. Sorry, no children’s discounts. Beware: taking a balloon ride may induce “love at first flight.” Tethered rides allow you to get a small taste of ballooning without leaving the festival grounds. These balloons are tied to the ground with tether ropes about 100 feet in length. When you get into the basket, the balloon goes up until the ropes are fully extended and then returns to the ground. The ride lasts about 5 minutes and can take place any time during the day as long as the winds are calm. This is a great way to start your day at the festival as it allows you to see the whole thing at once. You can purchase tethered rides on-site for $20 a person.
What about parking? The festival offers the convenience of 80 plus acres of on-site parking. In addition, on Saturday and Sunday from noon until close, Free Express Shuttle Buses will run continuously between the festival and nearby Raritan Valley Community College. For directions to the on-site and remote parking areas, visit the Directions page. Unfortunately, there is no mass transit (buses or trains) that goes directly to Solberg Airport.
What else is there to do? The festival offers hundreds of vendors offering arts and crafts. For night-time entertainment check out the fireworks on Friday at 9:30 p.m. and the unique balloon glow on Saturday at 9 p.m., Sunrise Yoga and Jazzercise at Health and Wellness Day 7 a.m. Sunday and at 8 a.m. Sunday the Advil Running with the Balloons 5K.
How about for the kids? Children’s entertainment includes some new amusement rides, magic shows, Dr. Planet & Fun with Character Ed and Laurie Berkner – Kids’ Concert.
Don’t forget the concerts every night. Headliners include George Thorogood and The Destroyers on Friday at 8 p.m., Jake Miller – Pop and Internet Sensation on Saturday at 1 p.m., Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo at 8 p.m., Plain White T’s at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Check out the festival’s schedule of events for more information.
What should you bring? For the lawn concerts, festival organizers suggest you bring a blanket or lawn chairs, but tents are not allowed. Only service animals are allowed on festival grounds.
What is there to eat? Coolers, bottles and outside food are not permitted on the festival grounds for safety reasons but guests can enjoy a variety of vendors selling favorites like cheese steak, Italian sausage, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs as well as the festival’s signature dish, the Hot Air Balloon Funnel Cake. QuickChek subs, sandwiches and drinks will also be on hand. A number of food companies distribute free samples throughout the day.
Keep in mind, the weather. The festival’s organizers can’t control the weather and its safety first. That means a balloon ascension may be canceled by winds or approaching storms, especially if there’s lightning in the area. The same goes for the concerts. The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will take place rain or shine and there are no refunds, so plan accordingly.
Presidential Impact: There have been inquiries about whether the balloon festival might be affected if President Trump visits his Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster in late July. In short, “No need to worry – the festival will go on as usual!” Executives from the festival and other local agencies met with FAA representatives in mid-March. At that time, the FAA representatives pledged to “develop and execute a good security plan that will ensure the balloon festival will go on as planned.”
For additional information go to balloonfestival.com.
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