The experience that our visitors get at the Great Falls Balloon Festival is rare in the ballooning world. At most festivals, spectators are not allowed in the area where balloons are launching.
However, this up-close-and-personal venue also poses some challenges. Our main launch site is small. Our visiting balloons are huge. Our visitors are smitten. But our pilots and crews need space. A lot of it. They also need to be able to see and hear each other to keep themselves and everyone else on the field safe.
Maintaining a safe environment is a top priority; and it is crucial to the future of the festival.
Below are some things to keep in mind when visiting the festival:
THE BIG 4:
Don’t Smoke. Our visiting balloons carry tanks full of propane gas. Due to the obvious fire hazard created by the use of propane gas, as well as the risk of damage to the balloon envelopes, smoking is prohibited.
Don’t bring your dog. Or your cat. Or bird. Or snake. With the exception of service animals, NO PETS of any kinds are allowed on festival grounds.
Don’t bring your wheels. This include bikes, skateboards, scooters, roller skates and—yes—unicycles. The level of foot traffic on the walkway around the park is very high, especially at launch time.
Don’t drink. No alcohol is allowed on festival grounds.
Launches are scheduled for 6 am and 6 pm throughout the weekend and are always weather permitting. This includes wind and clouds as well as more obvious conditions like rain and lightning.
In the event of questionable conditions, 0ur Balloonmeister will wait as long as they can in hopes of a turn for the better. However, a launch decision may be delayed by up to an hour if weather conditions are changing. Ideally, the balloons will launch by 6:45 p.m. This timeframe provides a fair ride for our passengers and gets everyone back on the ground before we run out of daylight.
Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston is our main launch site. Edward Little High School in Auburn will also act as an additional launch site for some regular shape balloons.
ON THE MIC
Live stage performances will end at 5pm and will resume following the launch. As the balloons arrive on the field, visitors will learn about each balloon and pilot from our on-field announcer.
BE READY TO RELOCATE
If you’ve staked out a spot in the center of the field … you probably won’t get to stay there. At launch time, if you’re on the main field at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, there is a good possibility that you will be asked to move; and maybe more than once.
Additionally, please give balloon vehicles the right-of-way when they are entering/exiting the field. We also ask that you take care not to step on the fabric of the balloon envelope when the balloons are on the ground.
Specials fly only in the morning. At our evening launches, the specials will inflate and stay at the field to glow for the crowd. They are large, complex and hard to pack up in the dark.
This ground-level light show is a crowd favorite! Following the Saturday evening launch (usually around 9 p.m.) some of our visiting balloons will return to the field, inflate and light their burners for a ground-level light show.
Chasing balloons can be an exciting way to participate in the festival. Keep your focus on the road if you spot a balloon while driving. Pull off to the side of the road to watch the balloon safely. And be careful not to drive or walk onto private property without the landowner’s permission.
We ask that everyone involved in the festival—including spectators, volunteers and balloonists—be respectful of landowners’ rights and responsibilities.
When the weather permits, tethered rides are available for $10–$15/person. Tethered rides typically begin in the late afternoon (exact time is dependent on temps and/or winds).
There is an ATM available at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, near the Information/Souvenir Booth.
WHERE TO STAY & EAT