Balloons Over Sussex flies high this weekend

GEORGETOWN — After nearly two decades, a hot air balloon festival is returning to Sussex County this weekend.

Balloons Over Sussex, brought to the area by the Sussex Academy Foundation, will take place Saturday and Sunday.

Delaware Coastal Airport is the staging venue for the two-day festival, which will feature 16 balloons, a variety of activities and opportunities for attendees to ride, interact and experience hot air balloons.

“We feel that we’ll have about 5,000 people for the first-year event,” said Gina Derrickson, Sussex Academy’s director of development.

The festival runs from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Food vendors and stage entertainment augment the festival, which will feature a Balloon Bar, with Dogfish Head beer and Nassau Valley Vineyard wines for sale to those of legal age.

The outdoor festival of course is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“I think it is important that everybody is aware because we don’t want anybody disappointed. This is all weather dependent,” said Ms. Derrickson, noting balloonists “have their rules, regulations and guidelines that they must follow. Hopefully, this will all happen.”

While Saturday has a hopeful forecast, Sunday calls for thunderstorms.

Colorful balloons will be coming from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Balloons Over Sussex, brought to the area by the Sussex Academy Foundation, will take place Saturday and Sunday at Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown. (Submitted photo)

“They are coming from all different places, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Washington, D.C,” said Ms. Derrickson. “There will be several different areas represented.”

Admission is $10 per person, and children under 10 are free. Cash or charge will be accepted, and admission fee will be collected at the gate.

There is no fee for parking, which will be available in the Delaware Coastal Business Park. But, there is no parking available for buses, trailers, or campers.

Balloon rides, features

Hot air balloon rides can be scheduled for Saturday evening, Sunday morning and Sunday evening and must be done by registering online at balloonsoversussex.com. The cost per ride is $240 per person. Festival organizers recommending booking early before they are sold out.

A mass ascension of balloons is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

A visual highlight is the Balloon Glow, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s really cute,” said Ms. Derrickson. “It’s about a 20-minute show. There is a whole storyline that is read over the sound system. Music is played, the balloons do this cute little thing, and then they all go up in the air at the same time — and they are glowing.”

“I think it is going to be beautiful to see the nighttime balloon takeoff and light up the sky,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West.

While the festival will be closed, a balloon ride is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Organizers encourage Sussex County residents to look skyward to see a colorful visual spectacle during these times.

Tethered balloon rides will be available during both days at $20 per adult and $10 for children under 12. Cash payment will be accepted directly from the balloonist, and preregistration is not required.

“You get in, go 60 to 80 feet up in air and come back down,” said Ms. Derrickson.

In addition, a balloon walkabout — an inflated balloon on the ground — will be open at a cost of $3 per person. Cash payment will be accepted directly from the balloonist, preregistration is not required.

“We’ll also have some demonstrations by different pilots with the balloons set up in the field. They’ll talk about flying balloons and balloon history,” said Ms. Derrickson.

A large tent will be set up and guests are encouraged to bring small beach chairs and blankets for leisurely viewing.

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson and Eric Anderson, Sussex Academy’s head of school, will provide welcoming remarks at 2 p.m. Saturday.

There will several activities for children, including face-painting, sand art, games and air-brush tattoos.

Sussex Academy’s Technology Science Association will offer attendees the opportunity to build their own tissue paper hot air balloons — and watch them fly.

Among the food trucks slated to be onsite include Taco Reho, Mojos to Go, Rita’s Rehoboth, Amy Cool’s Ice Cream, Bubba Bob’s Country Treats, London Court Beverage Company and the Milton Lions Club.

A variety of crafters and artisans will also be in attendance.

Entertainment lineup

Saturday’s schedule of events is as follows:

• Story Time by Bethany Beach Books, 2:30 to 3 p.m.

• Hope for Success (band), 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

• Above and Beyond Entertainment DJ, 5 to 8 p.m.

Sunday is as follows:

• Pirates & Princesses by Magical Events, 2 to 3 p.m.

• Elena Louvis (singer), 3 to 3:45 p.m.

• Speed Limit 18 (band), 4 to 5 p.m.

• Above and Beyond Entertainment DJ, 5 to 7 p.m.

Sponsorship

Balloons Over Sussex, organizers said, is made possible due to the support of the Sussex Academy Foundation, Active Pest Solutions, Baker Petroleum, Beebe Healthcare, Cape Gazette, Community Bank-Delaware, County Bank, Cristy Stafford Household, Delaware Beach Book, Delaware Electric Cooperative, Delmarva Power, Double E Lawncare, Forever Media (Cool 101.3 FM, Eagle 97.7 FM, 97.1FM, and 105.9 FM), GateHouse Media, Heritage Inn, Horizon Philanthropic Services, Innovative Hospitality Services, Inc., CrossCheck, Insight Homes, Johnson Orthodontics, The Lewes Building Company, McDonalds/The Meoli Companies, Preston Automotive Group, Schell Brothers, Scott and Shuman, P.A., Shore View Personalized Medical Care, State Farm Insurance-Mark Penuel and Techno Goober.

Nineteen years ago

The first hot air balloon festival was launched in Milton in 1990 by Dr. and Mrs. Charles (Patt) Wagner, who owned a hot air balloon and had attended a festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It was coined the Delmarva Hot Air Balloon & Craft Festival. The event was well-attended and continued for 13 years, raising money for the American Diabetes Association and later for The Milton Theatre.

Earlier this year, Sussex Academy Foundation contracted with Friendship Hot Air Balloon Co., based in West Friendship, Maryland ,just west of Baltimore.

For more information, check the Sussex Academy Facebook page.

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