Friday, September 24, 2021

Adirondack Balloon Fest is a ‘go,’ but curtailed

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

It’s a “go!” The 48th Adirondack Hot Air Balloon Festival will proceed, with a three-day run, Friday to Sunday, Sept. 24 to 26, organizer Mark Donahue tells The Chronicle.

It will be limited to 50 balloons rather than 100 — but there will still be special shapes.

Other notable changes:

• No Thursday flight in Crandall Park — That’s usually the locals-focused kickoff. “We just can’t do good crowd control in Crandall Park,” Mr. Donahue said.

• Glens Falls’s Thursday evening downtown party is a ‘yes.’ It will have “candlestick” balloon torch firings & more.

• Friday’s launches will take place in five communities, not a mass launch at Warren County Airport. Mr. Donahue said the communities will be “Glens Falls, Queensbury, South Glens Falls, Hudson Falls and one other we haven’t finalized.” He said he can’t release specific locations until the details are worked out.

• Saturday and Sunday morning launches will be roped off. They will take place as usual at Warren County Airport, “but for the first time ever, spectators will be roped off from the balloons,” Mr. Donhaue said. “That’s for safety reasons, and to spread out the crowd. We will also be spreading the balloons out along both runways, on the entire airport area.”

• Saturday night, two drive-through Moonglows only. There will be no Saturday late afternoon balloon launch, but 40 tethered balloons, lighted from within, at the airport. There will be a second, smaller Moonglow of 8-10 balloons Saturday night at East Field in Glens Falls, with spectators seated in the bleachers.

• No Sunday afternoon launch at Crandall Park, also for crowd control.

• Pilots not allowed to take paid passengers. Pilots must be vaccinated, Mr. Donahue said, but the Festival can’t guarantee the passengers will be vaccinated, creating possible liability, he explained.

• No vendors. No non-profit vendors, Zonta Craft Fair, kids’ activities, live music or Open Door Balloon Breakfast at the airport or other events. “Believe me, that hurts us too,” said Mr. Donahue. “We raise a lot of funds that way, and as a person who works for non-profits (as executive director of CWI, Inc.), the last thing I want to do is hurt them.” He said, “People are welcome to bring their own food.” He added, “The only thing that may happen is a vaccination clinic” at the airport.

• ‘Everything will still be free, as always,” Mr. Donahue emphasized.

• The weekend will be a tribute to essential workers. Mr. Donahue said they will raffle balloon rides for then.

• Sponsor info is coming — That will look different as well, Mr. Donahue says.

“Pilot invitations are going out shortly, Obviously, it will be very different this year, especially with the pandemic coming back.”

“It’s like creating a whole new event — with a lot more players,” says Mr. Donahue of organizing this year’s Adirondack Balloon Festival in the era of Covid. Last year’s festival was cancelled outright.

Warren County, New York State, local municipalities, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are all involved in the decision making, Mr. Donahue said.

“We are doing everything we can to make it very busy while also a socially conscious and safe event.”

“The hoops we’ve had to jump through to make this happen. It’s the largest gathering of people we have here. The last thing I want is for the Balloon Festival to be blamed for bringing the pandemic back.

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