RHINEBECK – Since she was a girl, Joanne Brown has wanted to go up in a hot-air balloon.
The 65-year-old Goshen resident and self-proclaimed thrill seeker said she remembers pleading with her mother to let her take a ride in a big balloon, but she never got the answer she was after. Now that she’s retired and has some money, she said, she hoped to cross the item off her “bucket list.”
She drove to the 27th annual Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds on Friday with her 73-year-old husband, who planned to watch her take one of the tethered balloon rides from the safety of the ground.
The festival was one of two this weekend in the region to open on Friday. The inaugural Empire State Hot-Air Balloon Fest, which is likewise a three-day affair, opened at Barton Orchards in Poughquag, the home for the Hudson Valley festival for the last two years.
Organizers and attendees alike are hopeful for a calm clear skies filled with balloons through what is forecast to be a beautiful weekend. In addition to mass balloon launches at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, both events also feature games, food and other family attractions.
Wind, however, put a damper on the opening day. At around 4 p.m. when the Hudson Valley festival opened, strong winds made even tethered rides too unsafe to attempt, and the 6 p.m. opening launch was cancelled.
Thousands of people are expected to come to the fairgrounds for the Hudson Valley festival this weekend, and though it’s set to go on rain or shine, organizers from the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce said wind gusts above 8 mph can make launching balloons dangerous, which led to the cancellation.
“It’s a little windier than we’d like,” Chamber Vice President Rich Kleban said at around 4 p.m. “The pilots are here from all over the country; they want to fly as much as everyone wants to see them fly.
“The rest of the weekend looks picture perfect for ballooning,” he said.
For Brown, a balloon ride will remain a dream to pursue.
“It’s something interesting I want to do, just for me,” she said. “Just for my thrill. I’ve been on the Ferris wheel before, and I’ve been on roller coaster rides. But I want something different.”
The National Weather Service in Albany predicts clear skies for the rest of the weekend and a low chance of heavy wind gusts. The festival has activities on Saturday from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
On both days, admission is free from 5 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. to watch the morning launches. After that, it’s a ticketed affair. A “Moon glow” is scheduled for Saturday, in which the balloon will stay on the ground but ignite their flames.
There are more than 90 vendors attending the Hudson Valley festival, including food trucks, craft beer distributors and retail booths.
“Watching (hot-air balloons) is mesmerizing,” said Empire Concessions co-owner Maryna Taylor, of Fishkill, who’s been a vendor at the event for the past three years and brought her young sons. “It’s like sitting by the water and watching the ocean.”
The Hudson Valley festival is also celebrating veterans in several ways — from a 53-feet-tall, 78-feet-wide “America One” balloon weighing 530 pounds, to a 50-piece band Aerophone that plans to play patriotic music during moon glows.
There are balloons with colorful checkerboard designs, as well as balloons with images ranging from a bow-tie, to a dinosaur, to a kangaroo.
Ethan Tampus, 17, of Ossining, came to the event with his mother, brothers and family friends. He was hoping to take in the image of floating hot-air balloons if weather would allow.
“It’s pretty aesthetically pleasing,” he said, “just to see everything go up in the air.”
Jack Howland: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4870, Twitter: @jhowl04
If you go
Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival
When: Today-Sunday. 6 a.m. mass balloon launches free; festival opens at noon, with mass launches at 6 p.m.
Where: Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck
Admission: $10 advance online, $13 at the gate; $23 all-weekend pass; Children under the age of 3 free.
More information: www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfesthv.org
Empire State Hot-Air Balloon Festival
When: Today-Sunday. 6 a.m. mass balloon launches free; festival opens at 11 a.m., with mass launches at 6 p.m.
Where: Barton Orchards, Poughquag
Admission: $7 advance online, $10 at the gate; $5 for military and first responders; Children under the age of 3 free. Craft beer tasting Saturday $30; Craft soda tasting Sunday $20.
More information: empirestateballoonfest.com
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