Balloon festival concludes without final launch

August 01, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Kayla Clutter, 4, of Hagerstown, exits an inflatable caterpillar Sunday during the hot air balloon festival at Green Grove Gardens outside Greencastle, Pa.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- As the sun set Sunday night, it marked the conclusion of a big weekend in the quiet community of Shady Grove, Pa.

For three days, spectators poured into Green Grove Gardens on Pa. 16 for the facility's inaugural hot air balloon festival. Vehicles lined the center's long driveway as visitors waited to gain entrance around launch times.

Keith McCleaf, operations manager of Green Grove Gardens, was happy but tired as the festival drew to a close.

"The event we feel was very successful," McCleaf said.

Factors, like the financial bottom line, will determine whether Green Grove Gardens hosts another hot air balloon festival, but McCleaf said he definitely wants to continue holding "fun, family-filled" events.

On Sunday afternoon, children ran through inflatable games, rode in a barrel train and had their faces painted, while adults purchased food and wares from vendors. There was even a booth where you could get your teeth whitened.


Sisters Colleen Heilig and Kathleen Knauff tried various foods and rested at a patio table as they decided whether to wait for the evening launch. They eyed darkening clouds.

"It looks worse by the minute," said Knauff, who was visiting from Florida.

The launch was eventually called off.

Heilig, of Waynesboro, Pa., rode in a hot air balloon years ago in New York. She highly recommends the experience.

"It's wonderful. You can hear so much," she said, describing the sounds of cows in a field below.

The sisters raved about Green Grove Gardens, which typically hosts weddings and special events for groups. Knauff complimented the plentiful parking and the landscaping, and Heilig, who walks with a cane, said she appreciates the paved areas that are easy to navigate.

Ron and Chris Leighty, of Chambersburg, Pa., also were considering whether to wait for the evening launch.

"We're going to stick around a little," Ron Leighty said.

Their 7-year-old daughter, Corinne, explained how she climbed through an inflatable caterpillar obstacle course. She also had her face painted and shared nachos with 15-year-old Kelsey Buterbaugh.

McCleaf said some people were disappointed when they arrived between launches. He said there had been some misunderstandings about when balloons would be featured, as they are sensitive to wind, weather and atmospheric conditions.

The best launch times are sunrise and sunset, and the festival was able to complete four of its five planned launches, he said.

Organizers were unable to count the number of visitors, McCleaf said.

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