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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Popular hot air balloon event coming back to The Villages Polo Fields

A popular hot air balloon show is coming back to The Villages.

Hot air balloons lit up the night sky at The Villages Polo Fields during a show last June at the polo fields.

The event, which kicks off on Friday, May 31 and runs through the weekend, is being held at The Villages Polo Fields. It will feature several hot air balloons from across the country on display, with some offering tethered rides to those who attend.

Hours for this year’s event are Friday, May 31 from 1-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, from 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Off-site parking with shuttle service will be available.


Last year’s hot air balloon show drew thousands to the polo fields over a three-day period. Members of the crowd were in awe as they got up close and personal with the crews and their majestic balloons, which featured a variety of bright colors.

Pilot Bubba Winston’s Christel Delight balloon was a popular draw at the show in The Villages last year.

Villager Sandy Foreman and hot air balloon pilot Bubba Winston.

“This is awesome!” said a beaming Sandy Foreman, of the Village of Pinellas, as she activated a propane burner to light up the inside of pilot Bubba Winston’s 10-story-high purple balloon. “It’s my first time being this close to a hot air balloon and it’s just phenomenal.”

Pilot Bud Hebrlee, of the Village of Dunedin, brought his bright yellow balloon to the polo fields. It was named Diamond Girl in honor of his wife, Judith. Both agreed that their favorite part of ballooning is quite simple.

“We meet so many interesting people from all over the world, from many walks of life,” Bud said.

“And we remain friends over the years,” Judith added. “So it’s really a neat sport.”

Villages pilot Bud Hebrlee’s Diamond Girl balloon, which is named after his wife, Judith.

Last month, a similar event in Ocala, The Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival, made worldwide headlines. That’s because the Marion County Sheriff’s Office recovered a hot air balloon that had been reported stolen in Bloomington, Ind. It was one of the lighter-than-air aircraft taking part in the show and it was quickly confiscated and held until the owner could travel to Florida to pick it up.

That $30,000 balloon, which featured an array of colors including red, blue, gray and black, also participated in the show at the polo fields last year.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office recovered this stolen $30,000 balloon from The Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was held last month at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala.

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