Summer is the season for traveling — by car, plane or cruise ship.
But for those looking for an unusual way to travel, try stepping into the basket of a hot air balloon this weekend at the Saratoga Balloon & Craft Festival.
Starting Friday, festival-goers will have the chance to take hot air balloon rides around Ballston Spa and Saratoga, as well as to take a tethered balloon ride. There will be roughly 30 balloons taking off at sunrise and sunset throughout the weekend.
“That’s when it’s the least likely to be windy,” said Tim Cianciola of Craftproducers, a company that organizes the festival each year.
That’s one part of the event that’s often misunderstood: The balloons don’t fly in the middle of the day.
“Each year, people will come around 3 p.m. and ask ‘Where are the balloons?’ ” Cianciola said.
Luckily, there’s still plenty to do when the balloons are grounded.
“There are bands playing every day,” Cianciola said. The Outcrops, a rock and Americana group, will be playing Friday at 3 and 6 p.m. Guitarist-violinist Spencer Lewis will be playing folk music at noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday, and Bucky O’Hare will bring a bit of blues to the festival on Sunday at noon and 2 p.m. Throughout the festival there will also be magicians and street performers such as Kozmo and Murph the Physical Comedian. A collie and sheepdog will also steal the spotlight for a show called the Jersey Disc Devils. They’ll be performing Frisbee stunts and more.
“Our Kids Zone is much bigger this year,” Cianciola said.
Kids have the chance to explore the inside of a hot air balloon during Balloon Walkabouts. If they’re feeling creative, they can watch their artwork fly as they attach their drawings and paintings to a hot air balloon. And if children get tired of balloon-related activities, there will be face painting, pony rides and a bounce house.
Albany Food Bank will also be hosting a Taste of Summer throughout the festival. Local restaurants and artisanal vendors will have food samplings and will donate most of their proceeds to the food bank. In the specialty food building, eight wineries will offer samples of more than 80 wines. About 30 food vendors are slated to offer their homemade jams and jellies, wood-smoked infused maple syrup, mustards, hot sauces, roasted nuts, artisan coffee, salad dressings, barbecue sauce, olive oils, flavored vinegars and more.
Craft vendors will also be on hand, selling everything from wearable art to specialty foods to replica antique maps.
For those who are looking for something more active, organizers of the festival partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Albany to host a World Series Wiffle Ball Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Teams can sign up to test their Wiffle ball skills and support the Boys & Girls Clubs.
There will also be helicopter rides available.
Since the festival moved locations from Shelburne, Vermont, to Ballston Spa in 2013, it’s drawn crowds of well over 8,000 each year.
“It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot going on and it’s affordable,” Cianciola said.
If you’re mostly looking to see a lift-off or to take a balloon ride, come early or stay late. On Saturday, lift-off starts around 6 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. According to Cianciola, festival-goers won’t want to miss the Balloon Glow around sunset on Friday, when the fairgrounds will be lit up with 15 tethered and ignited balloons.
Saratoga Balloon & Craft Festival
WHERE: Saratoga County Fairgrounds, 162 Prospect St., Ballston Spa
HOW MUCH: Day passes $5 for ages 3-15, $10 for adults. Weekend passes $5 for ages 3-15 and $15 for adults.
Children 2 and under are free.
MORE INFO: balloonandcraft.com