The idea of traveling without touching the ground is mystical and exciting, and its execution is enthralling. Great minds throughout time, including that of Leonardo da Vinci, have toyed with the concept of flight, but airplanes, jets and rockets are more of a modern science. But what about balloons which glide through the troposphere with heat as their main power source, like the kind on display at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning?
Back in the 18th century, the Montgolfier brothers of France were fascinated when they witnessed a piece of paper fly up the chimney of a roaring fireplace. They started experimenting with fire, smoke and small silk bags, watching as the upside-down bags floated to the ceiling. By September 1783, the brothers assisted in the first hot air balloon flight in Versailles in which a duck, a rooster and a sheep were the only passengers. The flight lasted eight minutes, and all three animals landed safely.
Over the next two centuries, countless balloons have launched all around the world; in Hunterdon County, there is even a nationally recognized festival dedicated to ballooning.
The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, in Association with PNC Bank, celebrated its 35th year of operation this past weekend as visitors from around the tri-state area traveled to Readington for three whole days filled with food, entertainment and, of course, ballooning. The Solberg Airport once again was home to a tradition that only grows larger every year.
The festival started out as a 10-balloon gathering at the Union 76 Truck Stop on Interstate 78 back in 1983. A couple of years later, it moved to its current location in Readington and has since become “the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America and the premiere family entertainment attraction in New Jersey.” The event also received the New Jersey Governor’s Award for Best Special Event as well as several distinctions as one of the Top 100 Festivals in North America as determined by the American Bus Association.
The 2017 QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning massive, welcoming thousands of guests each day and featuring more than 100 sport and special-shaped hot air balloons. Mass ascensions occurred twice daily, and guests were able to take spectacular flights or watch as their favorite balloons took to the skies over the beautiful Hunterdon County countryside each morning and evening.
This year’s event featured some of the best entertainment yet: Belmont’s Festival of Magic, Aerosphere Aerial Acrobat Spectacular and juggler, magician and comedian Al Grout were just a handful of the acts wowing children and adults throughout the weekend. The festival also hosted live musical performances by Jake Miller, Pat Benatar, the Plain White Ts, George Thorogood & The Destroyers and many more.
QuickChek has been sponsoring the event for the past 25 years, making it the longest running title sponsorship of any festival in the country. The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning has remained a fun and affordable experience for the entire family and strives to be just that for many years to come. Each year is jam-packed with tons of enjoyable vendors and entertainment, and there are only two things you need to remember: Come early and stay late.
Want to see more highlights from the best New Jersey events? Catch up on our recap series, The Best of!
- Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ