For the Talbot Paramedic Foundation, the Great Chesapeake Balloon Festival has been a community project since they started organizing it five years ago. This year the festival, held on August 5 and 6, attracted an unexpectedly large crowd of 14,000 people. The turnout was four times greater than last year’s causing a parking scramble and forcing hundreds of visitors to turn back. Hosted by Triple Creek Winery, the festival raised $20,000 for the Talbot Paramedic Foundation, this year too, as it did in 2015.
“The festival has grown every year and outgrew this year. Social media spread the news quickly and we had 78,000 hits on the website,” said Wayne Dyott, president of the foundation and chairman of the event.
The only hot air balloon festival on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, “the event is catching on,” said Dyott, and learning from the challenge of handling the large crowd this year, the foundation will plan accordingly for future events of this kind. “We will pre-sell this event online, have a parking lot in three miles’ radius, assign parking spaces beforehand and have people bussed in. That way we can have a good estimate and better control of the number of vehicles and people,” Dyott told The Balloon Journal.
Among the attractions were 15 hot-air balloons, static displays, rock-climbing wall, the balloon night glow, food, wine, giveaways, and other activities.
“Fifteen balloons took part in the festival but weather grounded some flights,” Balloon Meister Ron Broderick, told The Balloon Journal. “The conditions were marginal for flights on Friday evening and Saturday morning, causing some balloons not to fly.”
Balloon pilot Charles Blair, who has been ballooning for 34 years, flew his balloon “A Rising Star” on Friday evening and Saturday morning, taking in views of the countryside with its soybean fields and grape vines. After their flights, most of the pilots landed their balloons by the grassy patches next to the soybean field.
Charles, a resident of Delaware, attended the festival for the fourth time. “I just bought my third balloon. It can carry five passengers,” Blair told The Balloon Journal. “A Rising Star” can hold about 121,000 cubic feet of air, and it takes him and his team about 20 minutes to get it ready for flight, he explained. Blair also started flying commercially for a company “to recoup the money spent in buying and maintaining a hot air balloon.”
The night glows kicked off at 9 p.m. Friday, to music and countdowns, with pilots firing their burners almost simultaneously to create a swaying pageant of vibrant colors. “The night glow on Friday was a highlight of the event along with the three-faced special shaped balloon named “Carnival,” said Broderick. Spectators, especially children, were delighted to watch the balloons being filled with air by fan air blasters and then see the orbs stand tall after the burners were fired to heat up the air.
The festival did not have an entrance fee and had only a parking fee of five dollars. Limited boarding passes to ride a hot air balloon were available at $225 per person; in addition, few hot air balloons were tethered to the ground offering rides up to 80 feet in the air. An inflated balloon on the ground gave people a glimpse and feel for the envelope as they could walk into its interior.
Dyott said that it takes a lot of money and effort to put an event like the hot air balloon festival together and, more than being a fundraiser, it’s an opportunity for the foundation to let the public know about its services. Five years since its inception, when a board member who is also a balloonist, came up with the idea, the festival has been a great community event and a major fundraiser for the foundation.
According to Wayne Dyott, because of the support and participation they receive, including public contributions, the Talbot Paramedic Foundation will be able to continue its vital mission of providing equipment and training for the Emergency Services organizations and personnel on whom residents depend for their health and safety.
More photos from the festival.