Hot-air balloons to crowd airways

August 03, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A note to visitors to the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport on Friday, Saturday or Sunday: Think a little less "vroom" and a little more "Wheee" or "Whoa," depending on your age.

Instead of speedy jets, hot-air balloons will crowd the airways. The Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Balloon Festival is set for this weekend at the airport grounds. Organizers are anticipating 10 to 12 hot-air balloons, each poised to take the willing up and away.

For those who prefer the view from ground level, a group of powered paragliders will perform stunts in the air. The Chambersburg Skydiving Team will kick off events on Saturday and Sunday. There also will be aircraft on display and a car show.

A "night glow" on Friday night marks the official start to the hot-air balloon festival, said organizer Nicolas Diehl. The hot-air balloons will be tethered and illuminated on the ground. The experience, Diehl said, is comparable to walking through a maze of 90-foot-high lanterns.


Balloon rides start early Saturday morning, but those wishing to ride have to sign up Friday. Tethered balloon rides, which do not require a Friday sign-up, will be offered late afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, Diehl said.

Events include:

Friday, Aug. 4

9 p.m. - Night Glow

Saturday, Aug. 5, and Sunday, Aug. 6

6:30 a.m. - Morning rides
2 p.m. - Festival opens, car show begins
2:45 p.m. - Chambersburg Skydiving Team opens event with national anthem
3 p.m. - The Ronnie Johnson Band performs
5 p.m. - Powered paragliders
5:30 p.m. - People's Choice Car Show winner announced (Saturday)
6 p.m. - Tethered balloon rides
7 p.m. - Balloon race
8 p.m. - Gates close

If you go ...

WHAT: The Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Balloon Festival

WHEN: 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4; and 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, and Sunday, Aug. 6

WHERE: Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Event admission is $7 at the gate, $5 in advance. Parking is $3. Event admission does not include balloon ride costs, which are determined by balloon owners. A portion of the event's proceeds will go to the United Way. Tethered balloon rides cost from $10 to $15. Other balloon ride costs are determined by balloon owners and range from $175 to $225.

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