40th Annual New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning: Know Before You Go
Between scattered rain storms or smoke from wildfires, it’s safe to say that NYC is longing to see the skies in color again.
If this is true for you and your family, the 40th Annual New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning offers just the solution. The largest summertime hot air balloon & music festival in North America promises to paint the skies into a portrait of up to 100 giant vibrant balloons.
And that’s just one piece of the ballooning puzzle. The festival, which will take place on July 28 through 30 at the Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ will host live music, interactive displays, arts and crafts vendors, food vendors and other family-friendly activities and entertainment.
Howard Freeman, the festival’s executive producer puts it best: “It’s not about buying stuff, it’s about having experiences with your family,” Freeman says.
Balloon Is a Verb!
We’ve all had that moment in our childhood where we let go of a party balloon and watched it float up higher and higher into the atmosphere. And we wondered to ourselves what it would be like to be that balloon. What does it look like up there? How does it feel to be lighter than air?
Now, you have the unique opportunity to find out. Balloon rides will be offered all 3 days of the festival, twice a day on Saturday and Sunday. Morning rides will begin at 6:30am and night rides at 6:30pm, but you should be present for check-ins at least an hour prior to your scheduled flight.
Tickets are $275 per person on morning rides and $325 for night rides. Don’t forget that you’ll need the general admission tickets ($32 for adults and $12 for children ages 4-12) in addition to your ride tickets!
You can expect each ride to last between 20-25 minutes depending on weather conditions. Children must be 42 inches or taller to ride in the balloons. But of course, there will also be a staple of all fun festivals: amusement park rides!
Of course, if having your head in the clouds isn’t your cup of tea, you can simply sit back and enjoy the show. Thousands of people are anticipated to be on the grass lawns of Solberg Airport to watch the balloons take flight each morning and night.
You can bring your own blanket or lawn chairs, but we’d recommend the lawn chairs if you have small children who may need a little extra help getting the best view. And whether you’re an Instagram enthusiast or an old-fashioned scrapbooker, you’ll want your camera ready.
“You won’t believe your skies!” says Freeman.
Food vendors will also be available for the perfect balloon-viewing picnic. If you want to keep with the theme of lightness, the grilled chicken sandwiches are a good option. But don’t miss out on the signature Hot Air Balloon Funnel Cake!
Sights to behold include iconic balloons from past festivals such as a 65-foot-tall, 750-pound bright pink Lucky Pig from the New Jersey Lottery, a pair of 110-foot-tall bumblebees who hold hands and kiss in mid-flight, an 86-foot-tall Darth Vader and a 62-foot-tall Yoda, a 100-foot-tall snowbird penguin, and many, many others.
Children and adults alike will be enthralled by the airborne parade of snazzy shapes and characters.
Of course, the colorful colossal balloons are the event’s main attraction. But the festival offers so much more than that, including live music performed by artists beloved by children and families.
Dubbed the “Adele of the preschool crowd” by the Los Angeles Times, singer-songwriter Laurie Berkner will bring her signature Kindie rock sound to the festival’s children’s concert on July 28th at 1:30pm.
“If you’re two to seven, you will love Laurie Berkner,” says Freeman.
At 7:30pm post-grunge band Lit will take the stage followed by alternative rock band Everclear.
On Saturday, popular playback singer Parth Oza will perform in the afternoon followed by legendary disco and funk group KC and the Sunshine Band at 8:00pm (this set will be accompanied by the equally legendary balloon glow show).
Finally, LA-based indie pop band Fitz and The Tantrums will close out the live music set at 3:00pm on Sunday.
But these acts are just some of the world-class musicianship who will be performing! The festival will also feature several tribute bands, such as Earth to Mars, a Bruno Mars tribute and Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute.
Perhaps the idea of floating in a basket at over 1,000 feet in the air just isn’t quite adrenaline-inducing enough for you. If that’s the case, you may want to consider checking out the Fearless Flores Thrill Show, available on both Saturday and Sunday at 8:00am, 1:00pm and 5:30pm.
This is a one-of-a-kind act, where you can witness master motorcyclists perform heart-pounding stunts and mesmerizing maneuvers. The Flores Family is comprised of 10th generation performers and 3rd generation daredevils.
They have performed on America’s Got Talent as well as its venturesome spin-off, America’s Got Talent: Extreme. If you thought hot air balloons were gravity-defying, wait until you’ve seen the Breakaway Swaypole!
Magic and More
Good news: You don’t have to wait another year to see a spectacular firework show! The festival’s Firework Extravaganza will once again light up the skies on July 28th at 9:30pm. The kids will be thrilled to see one of their favorite annual traditions come back so soon.
Visitors will also be treated to a family-friendly magic show. Taking place at the Magic 98.3’s “Theater of Magic,” kids and adults alike can experience a sense of wonder even on the ground. The show will run several times throughout the three-day festival.
And if you want to encourage good health habits for your family, consider joining the Trinity Solar Running with the Balloons 5K as part of the festival’s Health and Wellness Day activities on Sunday, July 30th at 8:00am.
Over 1,000 runners are expected to take part in the race on a USA Track & Field certified course with a mix of surfaces, including pavement, gravel, dirt road, and grass.
All runner entries include a full-day General Admission Pass to the festival (a $40 value at the gate) and a complimentary parking pass among other perks. The top overall male and female finisher will win a free hot air balloon ride!
Arts & Crafts
Just to make sure that you never run out of things to do, the festival features hundreds of arts and crafts activities scattered throughout the festival grounds.
Also note that there will be several shopping opportunities throughout, including merchandise from the various concerts. Commemorate your experience by taking a piece of it home with you.
Tickets and Tips
General Admission tickets are $32 for adults, $12 for children ages 4-12 and free for children 3 and under. Purchase your tickets here. GA tickets sold online should be printed at home. Plan to have your printed tickets or have them displayed on your phone for admission to the event.
Tickets can also be purchased on-site at the box office at a rate of $40 for adults and $15 for children. All GA tickets are good for any one day of the festival and include lawn seating at the attended day’s concert.
The festival will be held rain or shine, so please plan your trip accordingly. On-Site Parking is $10 per vehicle (cash and credit accepted).
If you are one of the following: current or former military, first responders, firefighters, police/sheriff/corrections officers, or homeland security personnel, you can receive a discount on your tickets by purchasing them through GovX here.
If you are planning a balloon ride, have each passenger print out the Balloon Ride Passenger Release Form and print, read, sign and return it to the office within 14 days of purchase. You may also email your waiver and/or additional questions to: [email protected].
Why It’s Important
If you ask Howard Freeman, the festival represents more than just a day out with the family. Events such as these give us the kinds of memories we hold on to for life, much more so than the toys and trinkets we buy for each other.
After all, we are still collectively healing from a time of social isolation. The best cure for gloomy times is to be with loved ones and among our neighbors.
“When I was growing up, my parents bought me a bike and stuff like any other kid,” says Freeman. “But the thing I remember most was when I was about seven, my father took off from work for two months, put us in a station wagon, and we went across the country. And to this day, I still think about that great experience. I will always have those memories. To me, that’s what it’s really all about.”
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Psst… Here are some tips for staying hydrated this summer!