Hot air balloon festival coming to Georgetown

GEORGETOWN — Hot air balloons will return to Sussex County Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15 for the Balloons Over Sussex Festival – a fundraising event hosted by the Sussex Academy Foundation.

It will be staged at the back portion of the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, with spectator parking at the Delaware Coastal Business Park.

Admission fee is $25 per vehicle upon arrival at the festival grounds.

Featured attractions include hot air balloon rides, tethered balloon rides, balloon walk-about, balloon glow, a kids’ zone as well as artisans, food vendors and entertainment.

Interest and anticipation have risen steadily since Sussex Academy Foundation’s recent announcement.

“We have had very positive feedback,” said Gina Derrickson, Sussex Academy’s director of development. “We are quite thrilled with the feedback that we have had.”

Balloons Over Sussex will be staged from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 and from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.

The event will mark a return of hot air balloons to Sussex County.

Back in 1990, Dr. and Mrs. Charles (Patt) Wagner launched the first Delmarva Hot Air Balloon & Craft Festival in Milton. They owned a hot air balloon and had attended a festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In efforts to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association —Ms. Wagner worked as a diabetic educator and was a member of ADA’s board of directors — they facilitated Sussex County’s first hot air balloon festival.

The festival was held at the H.O. Brittingham school grounds as well as on their own private property adjacent to the school. The popular event was well attended and continued for 13 years, raising money for the American Diabetes Association and later for the historic Milton Theatre.

Earlier this year, the Sussex Academy Foundation contracted with Friendship Hot Air Balloon Company to bring back a hot air balloon festival to Sussex County. Friendship Hot Air Balloon Co. is based in West Friendship, located in Howard County, Maryland, just west of Baltimore.

The initiative began with an inter-office suggestion.

“Honestly, our school records secretary was going to a hot air balloon festival this summer, and said to me,’ You should do a hot air balloon festival,’” said Ms. Derrickson. “I said, ‘OK,’ and that is how is started.”

Festival proceeds are earmarked to upgrade science labs at Sussex Academy, a tuition-free public charter school that serves grades 6-12. Sussex Academy is located on Airport Road, not far from the county-owned airport and business park in Georgetown.

And yes, patrons shouldn’t be totally surprised if they hear the likes of “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?” and “Up, Up and Away, my beautiful balloon” – lyrics from The 5th Dimension’s 1967 hit.

“I can guarantee that it will be played,” said Ms. Derrickson. “I can’t say it’s the theme song, but it will definitely be played at the festival.”

At the event there will be opportunities for:

• Balloon rides, which will take patrons over portions of Sussex County;

• Tethered-rides, with balloons anchored to the ground. “You just go up and back down,” Ms. Derrickson said.;

• Balloon Walkabout, during which spectators can “walk around, be up close and talk to the pilots and learn more about ballooning,” Ms. Derrickson said.;

• Balloon Glow. “That is when all the balloons go up at night, at like dusk, and they glow. It’s dark enough that you can see the light,” Ms. Derrickson said.

Kids Zone attractions include sand art and face painting.

The Sussex Academy Technology Science Association Club is having kids make hot air balloons out of tissue paper. “And they are going to actually be able to go up in the air,” said Ms. Derrickson.

Entertainment currently includes a Pirates and Princesses Show, Hope for Success (a local band of middle school students), Above and Beyond Entertainment, which will provide recorded music that will also coincide with the script and music for the Balloon Glow.

“We are still trying to book entertainment. We are booking food vendors, crafters and artisans and we are looking for sponsors,” said Ms. Derrickson.

Sponsorships, both monetary and in-kind are welcome.

For information, visit the event website at:

Parking is at the Delaware Coastal Business Park on Nanticoke Avenue. People attending the hot air balloon festival will take U.S. 9 onto Park Avenue and then enter the business park on Nanticoke Avenue.

The festival venue is the back portion of the airport.

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