People planning on this weekend’s 41st Annual Adirondack Balloon Festival in Warren County should also plan for traffic delays.
County tourism and police officials say popular transportation routes to the festival — most events will be held at Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury — will be jammed during the early morning hours.
Balloons will launch at the airport todayat 5 p.m., Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. Twenty balloons will head skyward Sunday at 5 p.m. at Crandall Park in Glens Falls.
Joanne Conley, assistant tourism coordinator in the Warren County Department of Tourism, said the best way north is the way most people go — starting on the Adirondack Northway. Drivers leave the highway at Exit 19 (Aviation Mall exit) and make a right turn onto Route 254 — also known as Aviation Road until Route 9. Crossing Route 9, Aviation becomes Quaker Road.
Conley said people drive about two miles east to Ridge Road (Route 9L), then make a left turn onto Ridge. “From there it might be about two miles until you take a right turn onto Hicks Road and from there you just turn into the airport,” Conley said.
Another option would be driving farther north on the Northway, to Exit 20. Conley said people can then take Route 149 north and then east, turn south onto Ridge Road, then look for Hicks Road and the airport.
Warren County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Lee Corsones, who’s in charge of the road patrol, said there are no secret, traffic-free paths to the balloon festival. People exiting at Exit 19 at 6 a.m. are going to run into delays.
“If you take Exit 20, it’s going to be the same thing,” Corsones said. “It would have worked five, six or seven years ago, but everybody knows about it now. It’s just as busy.”
Corsones said “back routes” people have found are not secret, either. Others know about them and will be using these roads. So there will be traffic there, too.
While Corsones and Conley both say people should expect to be driving slowly before balloon launch sequences, they both say balloon fans can reduce time in traffic. Conley admits 6 a.m. is early — but starting at 4 a.m. will beat some early risers who are still stretching and yawning.
“If balloons are scheduled to lift off at 6 a.m., go early and have breakfast,” Conley said, plugging the “big balloon breakfast” inside the airport hangar that begins at 5 a.m. “Have coffee or hot chocolate and bring a lawn chair.”
The airport grounds open at 4:30 a.m. But people on the road early will not be able to pull right into the airport; Corsones said the 4 a.m. crowd is still going to see traffic. “But you’re going to get into the property sooner,” he said.
Balloon lovers who think the Saturday afternoon airport show might offer a better traffic flow might think again.
“I don’t think there’s less traffic in the afternoon,” Conley said. “A lot depends on the weather.”
But there is traffic for all balloon shifts. “It’s heavy all the time,” she said.
People can grab a prime parking spot at the airport, if they’re willing to pay for the privilege. “Special V.I.P.” parking passes for the main entrance will cost $15 and can be purchased online at the festival’s website, www.adirondackballoonfest.org. Passes can also be purchased at Glens Falls City Hall, in the city clerk’s office, Queensbury Town Office building, Warren County Municipal Center, in the treasurer’s office and Warren County DPW Office in Warrensburg.
Corsones said about 12 deputies will be on hand for traffic control and patrol during each balloon event. He said deputies never have any trouble with the event or spectators.
“It’s just traffic,” he said. “You know going to an event like this, you’re going to have to sit in traffic.”