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What you need to know for 07/26/2017

Balloons soar above Spa County Fairgrounds

Balloons soar above Spa County Fairgrounds

As the hot-air balloon takes off, passengers hurriedly whip out their cellphones and snap photograph
Balloons soar above Spa County Fairgrounds
An inflated balloon became entertainment for the crowd of visitors at the Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival in Ballston Spa on Sunday.
Photographer: Stacey Lauren-Kennedy

As the hot-air balloon takes off, passengers hurriedly whip out their cellphones and snap photographs of the magnificent landscape that quickly comes into view.

The trees that surround the field where the balloon takes off begin to slip away, allowing riders to look out almost three miles in every direction.

The balloon, which peaks at about 75 feet and hangs in the air for close to three minutes, can hold as many as seven passengers in a cramped 5-foot by 5-foot area.

The Saratoga County Fairgrounds hosted the hot-air balloon rides for the first time in a three-day festival that concluded Sunday.

Riders didn’t seem nervous about any impending danger as they calmly awaited take off and looked forward to taking in the views of Saratoga County.

Quelling many fears was the fact that the balloon was tethered by lines of rope that were anchored to four massive pickup trucks.

Violet Welsh, a brave 3-year-old from Albany, jumped aboard the balloon with her mother, Nancy.

“I’m not nervous,” Violet said, as she eagerly awaited the balloon's liftoff.

“We have a little daredevil here,” her mother added.

When the balloon landed, the two hopped off smiling ear-to-ear. Violet raced into her father's arms looking thoroughly enthused about the ride.

“That was a lot of fun,” Nancy Welsh said. “I think now we are ready to go untethered.”

By 1 p.m. Chris Sommers, the balloon’s pilot, said he been “up and down” around 150 times. Sunday had been the slowest of three days, he said. Both Friday and Saturday he piloted around 700 balloon rides. When asked if he was afraid of heights, Sommers said that a mere 6-foot stepladder “terrifies” him.

“For some reason this does not bother me,” he said. “But I will not get on a stepladder.”

Although the ride is short, a ticket is not cheap, as riders must shell out $20 each to climb aboard, or $50 for a group of three.

Suzanne Momrow, a Niskayuna resident, said the ride was “amazing” and was a great experience for her two daughters but thought the $50 price for three tickets was too steep.

“I mean, you’re paying $50 for such a short time,” she said. “It was great but I don’t know if it was worth it.”

Todd Monahan, who runs Sun Kiss Balloons in Glens Falls and describes himself as the “balloonmeister,” said the fee was actually quite cheap for a balloon ride of this kind, which normally would have a much higher price tag. One-hour untethered flights in the morning were $225 each, plus admission to the event itself.

Bill Stanton of Ballston Spa thought the trip was affordable and said the views were “unbelievable.”

“We had a great time,” said Stanton, who went aloft with three relatives. “I already want to do it again.”

At 1:15 p.m., the wind had picked up to a point at which the balloon rides could not continue.

As Sommers landed the last flight he shouted, “I just got knocked out of the air.”

After flights ended, the Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival continued with a variety of entertainment and crafts for adult and child alike, all firmly planted on the ground.

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