SOAR IN A HOT-AIR BALLOON
Maine may not be the first place that pops into your mind when you think of hot air balloons, but remember, both hot air and helium balloon trips to set Atlantic crossing records have started in Maine.
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Maine has two festivals to help you discover a love of ballooning. Since 2003, Presque Isle has hosted the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest for four days in late August, when hot-air balloon owners from the United States and Canada celebrate the world’s oldest form of air travel. Just before dawn and fust before sunset (6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), the balloons carry passengers over vast stretches of Aroostook’s fields and valleys, usually landing on someone’s farm.
The Great Falls Balloon Festival takes place over three days in mid to late August at Siniard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston. This festival has been running since 1992, and attracts approximately 100,000 visitors to Maine’s second most populous urban area. Usually there are five launches, alsoat 6a.m. and 6 p.m. available to would be riders. There are also balloons that can accommodate larger groups of up to ten passengers. Both festivals end balloon rides with a traditional champagne toast.
So if you want to spend an hour imagining yourself as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, or just want a new. mostly silent, view’ of wonderful Maine scenery from aloft, a hot air balloon ride might be just the thing. If the festivals’ timing doesn’t work, there are at least three companies throughout the state that offer balloon rides.
The helium-filled Double Eagle II, the first balloon ever to cross the Atlantic, launched from Presque Isle and landed in Miserey, France, on August 17,1978.
Kosie O’Grady’s Balloon of Peace, and completed the first solo trans-atlantic balloon flight, landing in Savona, Italy.
Richard Branson and Per Lindstand made the first successful hot-air balloon transatlantic crossing in 1987 in their Virgin Atlantic Flyer, launching from Sugarloaf Mountain and flying to Ireland.