The Villages Polo Club is preparing to host a three-day hot air balloon festival.
The Villages Balloon Festival will be similar to one held here last year but bigger, with more events and activities. It kicks off Friday, May 31 and runs through Sunday, June 2 and will feature a variety of hot air balloons, tethered balloon rides and entertainment, along with retail and arts and crafts vendors. Food, drinks, beer and wine also will be sold at the event. And a free Kids Zone will offer fun for younger visitors.
Hot air balloon flights and nighttime glow events are scheduled each day and evening. General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 10 to 18 years of age. Kids under 10 will be admitted free of charge.
All balloon events are dependent on the weather. Security measures will be in place, including bag checks. No animals (with the exception of service animals), contraband, or outside food and drinks, including alcohol, will be permitted. To learn more visit www.thevillagesballoonfestival.com.
A similar-but-smaller hot air balloon event drew thousands to the polo fields last year. Billed as a Balloon Glow, the event featured several hot air balloons lighting up the night sky, with some offering tethered rides for participants.
“This is awesome!” a beaming Sandy Foreman, of the Village of Pinellas, said last June as she activated a propane burner to light up the inside of Villages 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.”
Another Villages pilot, Bud Hebrlee, of the Village of Dunedin, brought his bright yellow hot air balloon 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.”
Meanwhile, this past March, controversy erupted at a hot balloon festival that carried The Villages name on it. Marion County sheriff’s deputies were called to the event, also billed as The Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival, at the Florida Horse Park on S Hwy. 475 in Ocala after a hot air balloon was reported stolen.
Deputies had received a call from the Bloomington, Ind., Police Department about the $30,000 balloon and it was seized at the event. That balloon also had been a part of the Balloon Glow event in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown last June.