QUEENSBURY— Whether they are pinpricks of vivid color against the sky or towering on the ground in epic proportions, hot air balloons are a legacy for the Adirondack Balloon Festival. The festival will commemorate its past, present and future as it celebrates its 50th anniversary Sept. 20-24 at Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury.
“We are elated that we are still able to bring an event that continues to be free and benefits so many locals,” said Erin Reid Coker, an event organizer and member of the Board of Directors. “It is an incredible undertaking to put this event on since we too are a not-for-profit organization.”
The festival, which is estimated to draw crowds of more than 100,000 people over the course of four days, is free to attend and offers visitors an opportunity to explore the aviation tradition that inspired its founder, Walter Grishkot. The Adirondack Balloon Festival ranks as the third largest in the country.
“It’s an event like no other,” said Coker, describing how the Adirondack Balloon Festival is “a tradition for families and pilots across the state, country and also internationally.”
The Adirondack Balloon Festival has been named one of the Top 100 events in North America and has received accolades from the Weather Channel, Food Network, and other media outlets. Throughout the years, the event has drawn international exposure for the Glens Falls region, with relationships being formed worldwide from Saga, Japan, to Gatineau, Quebec.
The event is entirely organized by volunteers who work to uphold the values originally implemented half a century ago.
“People tend to be very surprised when they find out that a core of 15 people, all volunteers, put together such an amazing and successful event each year,” said Coker. “There has always been a sense of pride that the event is run strictly by volunteers.”
Coker said the festival has far-reaching effects on the local economy and community.
“We can’t have a successful event without the support of Warren County, as well as local businesses that generously support the event,” he said. “It’s an amazing event that really does benefit local businesses like restaurants, hotels and more.”
One of the festival’s most important goals is to remain non-commercial and free, as well as a significant fundraiser for local non-profit groups such as Rotary, World Awareness Children’s Museum, The Open Door Mission, and others. Over the past 49 years, the event has raised close to a million dollars for the organizations.
To celebrate the landmark anniversary, this year’s event includes a gala on Sept. 20 at Hiland Park Golf Club in Queensbury. The cost is $40 to attend and is open to the public, with tickets available on their website. The gala will feature memorabilia and the commemoration of the “pioneer pilots” who attended the event within the first couple years of its creation.
To end the gala, a particularly dazzling show is planned.
“Lastly, we will have a moonglow with roughly 10 balloons close to sunset,” said Coker. “A moonglow is where balloons inflate and glow as the sunset creates a beautiful sight.”
Throughout the event, balloons will launch into the air in mass ascensions of 70 or more, including the fan favorite “special shape” balloons.
“We will have a record number of ‘special shapes’ from national and international pilots,” said Coker.
A birthday cake-shaped balloon will be launched during the opening ceremonies on the 21st to commemorate the 50th anniversary.
“It’s important to keep the event running, as it’s become such a tradition locally, nationally and internationally for pilots and the community to return to every year,” he said.
For more information about the Adirondack Balloon Festival, visit www.adirondackballoonfest.org.
This story appeared on page 1 of the September 13, 2023 print edition of the Spot518