READINGTON, NJ – It’s underway at Solberg Airport: The country’s largest summertime balloon and music festival.
It’s the 36th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. And while organizers expect it to draw about 165,000 visitors and pilots from around the globe this weekend – making it Hunterdon’s biggest annual event by far – it has its roots in tiny Bloomsbury.
In 1983, it began at Union 76 truck stop, the brainchild of Readington’s Bill Lewis. Some old-timers insist that the little borough with fewer than 1,000 residents would actually formally change its name to “Balloonsbury” to promote the attraction, and then change it back again when the festival ended.
The colorful attraction quickly outgrew its humble roots, and Lewis moved it to Solberg Airport a few years later. It has been growing ever since.
The three-day balloon festival includes 100 sport and specially shaped hot air balloons from around the world taking to the skies each day in mass ascensions. Other highlights include fireworks; a nighttime hot air balloon glow; children’s amusement rides and entertainment; the Running with the Balloons 5K; interactive exhibits and hundreds of crafters and food vendors.
The festival officially opens at 1 p.m. this afternoon and will continue until 10 p.m. Tomorrow’s hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it is open on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The mass inflations and ascensions are at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day, weather permitting.
This evening, Andy Grammer will perform. His debut album featured the platinum singles “Keep Your Head Up” and “Fine By Me.” His second album, Magazine or Novels, featured the triple-platinum “Honey, I’m Good,” which was one of the best-selling songs of 2015, and the certified gold anthem “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).”
Saturday’s headliner will be Lifehouse, who first broke through in 2001 when “Hanging By a Moment” from their “No Name Face” album spent 20 weeks in the Top 10.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited will close out this year’s concert series on Sunday. The band incudes Creedence Clearwater Revival founding members and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford. They launched Creedence Clearwater Revisited not long after their induction into the Rock Hall.