New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning takes to the skies

READINGTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The 38th Annual New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning returns this weekend, July 23-25, to Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey.

The event was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but 2019's festival was hugely popular, attracting 170,000 visitors.

This year visitors can also expect food, fireworks, family activities, and concerts.

"There's 100 acres of onsite parking, it's only $10, there's no problem. What you can expect once you get there is nonstop, more than just hot air," Festival Executive Producer Howard Freeman said.

There will be nearly 100 different hot air balloons, including a New Jersey Lottery Summer Days balloon that's shaped like the sun.

Freeman said the festival is partnering with the New Jersey Department of Health, Wegmans Pharmacy, and Hunterdon Healthcare to offer free COVID-19 vaccines.

Those who get vaccinated will receive ticket discounts and be entered into a sweepstake for a chance to win a ride in that New Jersey Lottery balloon.

The festival also features concerts by the rock bands Styx and Barenaked Ladies.

Balloons will rise Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with pilots from half the country.

"When I see those, that fabric being taken out of the bag that it comes in and then the fans putting air into the balloon and then finally the propane like in your backyard barbecue creating the heat, which heats up the inside of the balloon when the inside is hot, any outside hot air rises, but when all that starts happening and you hear that noise, the hair on my arms still stands up on end and it'll never get old for me. So, you know it brings out the little kid in everyone," Freeman said.

Tickets are available at the festival's website or by calling 1-800-HOT-AIR9.

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