PLAINVILLE - The Plainville Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival drew spectators and balloonists from near and far to Norton Park Friday.
Visitors arrived by the busload, laying out lawn chairs and rugs and browsing the booths of more than 120 vendors.
Some people bought jewelry or clothes, others took their children to have their faces painted, while others lined up for lemonade and fried dough, baked potatoes or beef jerky.
Still others sat patiently, enjoying the warm sun, the cool breeze and music by Nashville Drive, while they waited for the balloons to be inflated for the night’s balloon glow. Following this awesome sight, visitors would later be treated to another spectacle - the town’s annual fireworks show.
Tim Anderson, of Massachusetts, came to the event for the first time with his wife, Jessica, and their children, Christian, Dylan and Isabella. They were on the way back from a trip to North Carolina to see the solar eclipse and decided to come and check out the festival.
“I heard the balloon glow is beautiful at night,” Tim Anderson said.
Daniella Luna, of New Haven, came with her cousin Diana, from Ecuador, and her 7-year-old daughter, Ivana, for whom she bought a reed flute from one of the vendors. They have been coming for the past four years.
“The town does an amazing job with this festival,” said Luna. “I usually bring my mom, too, but she wasn’t able to come this year. We always get the lemonade and the ice cream and the fried dough.”
“I like to watch the balloons go up,” said Ivana.
Ed and Alice Testa sat next to each other in the shade, reading as they waited for the balloon glow to begin. They said they have been coming every year.
We enjoy the fried dough and the hamburgers,” said Alice Testa.
“When we were younger we used to get up close to them as they inflated,” said Ed Testa. “A long time ago I took a ride on a tethered balloon. It was exhilarating. The festival is always pleasant and they’ve done a good job keeping traffic down this year and last.”
Barb Magnano, of North Carolina, has been coming to the festival for eight years as a balloonist. She said she grew up in Connecticut and that the festival was close to her heart.
“It is very peaceful up there,” she said. “When you go up in the morning you get to watch the animals waking up. Then, when you go up in the afternoon, you get to watch the hustle and bustle on the streets. We’ll be going up Saturday and Sunday with the weather permitting.”
Balloonist John Bond has been coming to the festival for the past four or five years with his family and friends. His son Austin and daughter Sarah spoke of the experience of flying as they set up.
“It is pretty slow moving and relaxing,” said Austin Bond. “It doesn’t feel like you’re flying; it is very peaceful.”
“We stay down low, around 1,500 feet, so we can see the ground and also stay out of Bradley’s airspace,” added Sarah Bond, who said it was fun to answer people’s questions and explain to them how the balloons work.
Jim Lenois, festival organizer with the Plainville Fire Company, said his phone was “blowing up” Friday with many interested vendors. He said the buses were off to a smooth start bringing people to the event.
Councilor Scott Saunders was among the 90 volunteers at the event. He said the number had gone up slightly from previous years.
“We had a good weather forecast for the whole weekend so we were able to rope in some more,” he said. “We also got some more vendors this year.”
“It is perfect weather and perfect organization and it is shaping up to be a great weekend,” said Town Council Chairwoman Kathy Pugliese.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.