Hot air balloons soar over Almost Isle to open the 19th annual festival

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – The skies were fine and the winds died down nicely Thursday night at Près Isle as pilots and their passengers took off in hot air balloons.

The 19th Annual Crown of Maine Balloon Fest kicked off with its own take on a ribbon cutting at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds. With a brief blast, pilot Mike Lavoie of West Ossipee, New Hampshire, burned the ribbon in half and the festival began.

Pilots from Florida and all over New England and neighboring New Brunswick participate, including two from Maine. These pilots bring families and fans, and this year people from 12 states signed up for hot air balloon rides. The event draws thousands to Almost Isle, boosting accommodations, restaurants and shopping throughout the area.

Tittravate, guided by pilot Joe Caputo of Pittston, flies over Almost Isle. (Credit: Paula Brewer/The Star-Herald)

People watched the balloons and socialized at the fairgrounds on Thursday afternoon and evening. Crew members and local volunteers chased the balloons as they landed near Easton Road. Early Friday morning, people stopped by roadsides, lawns and wherever they could to catch a glimpse of the colorful balloons and wave to passengers.

And everywhere people were looking up and smiling. It’s a party that makes people happy.

Pilot Mark Depew of Nashua, New Hampshire was one of those happy people. He is new to the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest and has brought an entourage of family, including his wife Alecia as well as in-laws and cousins.

“It’s a family affair,” he said Thursday. “We are happy to be here and very enthusiastic about the idea of ​​discovering a new region. We are here to explore northern Maine.

Depew, whose red, orange, yellow and black balloon is called Patch Adams, has been a private pilot for nine years. This is not just his first time in Aroostook County, but his first flight to Maine.

Joe Caputo from Pittston is at the festival with his balloon Tittravate, and James Rodrigue from Lewiston with Tailwinds.

Other pilots include Randy Lee of Four Oaks, North Carolina; Bob Martel of Sterling, Mass.; Marian Deeney of Monticello, Florida; Joe and Beth Hamilton of Hobe Sound, Florida; Mark Fritze of Tallahassee, Florida; Luke Van Camp of Tallahassee; Jim Rogers of Saint John, New Brunswick; and longtime festival favorite Wendell Purvis.

The fairgrounds have plenty of attractions to keep the crowds busy when the balloons aren’t on the field. There are food and drink vendors from the area and other parts of Maine, bouncy houses, live music, and craft vendors.

Launches should take place in the morning and evening. Although rain is forecast for Friday evening, the weather promises to be good for Saturday and Sunday.

For a full schedule of events, visit the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest Facebook page.

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