Balloons returning to Vermilion County Skies

via The News-Gazette

It’s time again for colorful hot air balloons to fill the sky over Vermilion County, but the action doesn’t stop when the sun, and balloons, come down.

For the first time, a professional laser light show will bring the night sky to life at 9 p.m.  opening day only, July 13.

The two day festival kicks off at 3 p.m. July 13 when gates open to the public at the Vermilion Regional Airport, 22633 N. Bowman Ave., Danville, and the fun winds down after 11 p.m. July 14 when the last band, New Invaders, wraps up on the main stage. Admission is $5 per person, and kids ages 10 and under are free with each paid adult. 

Parking on airport grounds is $5, but free shuttle service runs from multiple nearby locations throughout the event.  A map of shuttle locations is available on page 7 and online at balloonsoververmilion.com.

The field of about 35 hot air balloons is scheduled to take off from the Vermilion Regional Airport grounds at 6:30 p.m. July 13 for the first of three scheduled flights throughout the two day event.

After the hot air balloon launch is the popular Balloon Glow at 8:30 p.m. both nights, where the entire launch site fills with hot air balloons tethered to the ground as pilots fire their burners, lighting their envelopes (balloons) in unison.

That’s followed by a colorful and lively cascade of light beams that will dance midair across the airport grounds, choreographed to music.

LaserEncore --  the same company that puts on the laser show at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico -- uses the latest laser technology in its  synchronized shows that are featured across the country at festivals, fairs and other special events.

“And we are excited to offer the same high-quality entertainment for our festival too,” said Pat O’Shaughnessy, co-chair of Balloons Over Vermilion, which was launched as an annual event three years ago when the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation agreed to be the Title Sponsor.

The new laser light show is sponsored by Mike and Sue Brown.

Co-Chair Jim Anderson said organizers invite everyone to join them July 13-14 at the Vermilion Regional Airport in Danville for the area’s “marquee event.”

The main attraction of the festival which drew 22,500 people last year – a 12 percent increase over the first year – is the hot air balloons.

The field features pilots from several states, including Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and 20 from Illinois, including several local pilots, like Deb Griest of Urbana, Betsy Kleiss of Champaign and Kathy Reineke of Mahomet as well as the Danville contingent, Dean Carlton, Donna Carlton-Vish, Ryan Carlton, Larry Own and Brock Gale.

The 35 pilots and their balloons are slated to fly – if skies are clear with little wind – three times during the festival.

•6:30 p.m. July 13, balloons lift off at the Vermilion Regional Airport grounds

•6:30 a.m. July 14, a community flight where pilots find take-off sites around the Danville area and fly to a point chosen that morning, depending on wind direction.

•6:30 p.m. July 14, balloons lift off at the Vermilion Regional Airport grounds

If you want to experience what it’s like to lift off in a hot air balloon, professional pilot Tony Sandlin from Indianapolis will have his balloons, which are also handicap accessible, at the festival offering tethered rides to the public. About 900 tethered rides were given at last summer’s festival.

Rides -- $15 for adults and $10 for kids 10 and under – can accommodate 4 to 8 people at a time and the balloon basket goes up 50-100 feet in the air. At all times, the balloon is secured to the ground by heavy vehicles and strong ropes. The trips last about five minutes and offer a bird’s-eye view of the festival grounds and an excellent opportunity to experience hot air ballooning.

In addition to ballooning, the festival offers a wide variety of food vendors and other activities, including a kids zone, Classic Car Show from 1-5 p.m. July 14, a sand volleyball tournament 1-8 p.m. July 14 and, throughout the two days, a beer tent with live music, and a main stage with more live music, featuring several bands, Big Guns, Zach Dobbles Experience, Tons O' Fun, X-Krush and New Invaders.

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