BALLSTON SPA – Each of the estimated 6,000 attendees at the sixth annual Saratoga Balloon and BBQ Festival (formerly known as the Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival) has to decide for themselves the answer to one question: which was the greater draw, the food or the balloons?
For Jonathan Pluviose, age 9, from Albany, the answer was easily the balloons.
“I was actually, never, able to see a balloon launch, ever! I got so close to seeing it one time, but it got canceled,” he said.
Pluviose was disappointed again when the planned early-morning hot air balloon at the festival was canceled due to too much wind.
A company called On Your Way Up Ballooning, based in Quakertown, Penn., had its 105,000-cubic-foot hot-air balloon “Creation’s Glory” ready to fly Saturday, but weather conditions kept it grounded.
“When you’re flying hot air balloons, anything more than seven or eight knots of wind and the balloons just fall over or get blown into stuff,” said Samuel Jenney, a hot air balloon pilot for On Your Way Up Ballooning.
Jenney said his employer provided hot air balloon rides, as well as “tethered flights” which are stationary, tied to one location, and “walk through balloons.”
The walk through balloon attraction at the Saratoga Balloon and BBQ Festival proved to be one of the most popular attractions Saturday, allowing people to walk into the interior of a grounded hot air balloon, the now retired “Bird of Paradise” a once 90,000-square-foot hot-air balloon, inflated by two fans, powered by five and nine horsepower engines.
Event organizer Tim Cianciola, who owns a company called Craft Producers, organizes the annual festival. He said he was sorry the wind kept the balloons grounded Saturday morning. He said his decision to incorporate barbecue as the second-theme for the festival in 2018 has proven to be a good strategy for attracting visitors to the event.
“We also added a lot more kid events this year, so every year we’ve tried to grow and add new things,” Cianciola said. “I think we’ve had a solid day [Saturday], I think we’ve had between 6,000 and 7,000 people.”
Jonathan Pluviose’s mother, Christine Pluviose, and her daughter, his sister, Juliette, 19, also of Albany, said they came to the event for the BBQ, doing a little taste-off between Smoke Shack and Dre’s BBQ of Atlanta, Ga.
“I’m a bit of a foodie,” Juliette Pluviose said.
Andre Bulluck, the owner of Dre’s BBQ, said he takes his product, which uses a 125-year-old vinegar based recipe for its BBQ sauce, all over the United States. He said this is his second year in a row attending the Saratoga Balloon and BBQ Festival and he intends to return.
For people who wanted to see hot air balloons there was still the option of blown-glass miniature hot air balloons created by husband-and-wife team John and Linda Garrison of Garrison Creative Glassworks, West Haven, Vt.
Linda Garrison said she and her husband have a U.S. copyright on the creation of blown-glass miniature hot air balloons. She said they make about 1,200 of them every year, with various colors and design elements, and they’ve made a living doing that for close to 30 years.
She said the balloons range in side from 5.5 outside diameter inches to a half inch, and range in price from $19 to as much as $300 or more for custom designs. Little “balloon men” can also be purchased to ride in the baskets hanging from the blown-glass balloons.
“We starved like every other artist in the beginning, until something started to sell, and when it did it was the hot air balloons. It was also one of the only pieces that incorporated both of our talents. He blows the glass, I do the color and the artwork,” Linda Garrison said. “We’re down to six shows per year, and it takes us all winter to make our stock.”