Upwards of 15,000 people converged on the Upper Valley this weekend for the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. It was not all blue skies, but the weather did cooperate to help launch what has become the traditional start of the tourism season.
Thousands flocked to Quechee for three days of festival fun.
This year marks the 34th Annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon festival, and organizers think this year may have been the biggest yet. And for those 60 vendors selling food, crafts and a variety of goods -- that is music to their ears.
"Well you might say it's a very uplifting sort of festival with the balloons. It's a feeling -- and some good business too," said Jim Richards, who travels from Massachusetts each year to sell his jewelry at this festival. He says the business he can do during these three days, makes the trip worth it. "I think it's pretty consistent actually. Last year they moved it to a different location so it kind of changed things. But yesterday was rocking," he said.
And for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene, the festival is back in it's original spot on the Village green. Flooding damage caused the event to be held in a temporary space last year, and although the change may have felt different for some festival goers, it certainly didn't stop the good memories.
"I have people that say it's a life altering experience. So they are the best advertiser that we could ever have -- to have the experience and bring their family and bring their friends up here. So it seems to be infections," said Festival Co-Chair Ken Alton.
And in addition to the hot air balloon rides that are available in the early morning and evening, the entertainment this year literally fell from the sky. "It's really cool -- I always kind of grew up, wanted to sky dive, so seeing people do this was inspiring as a kid. To try and be like, 'Oh I can do that one day.' So it is really awesome to be able to see kids get really excited and say, 'I want to do that, I want to do that,'" said Brian Boyle, a sky diver with Jumptown.
End even for those attendees who didn't get to see or ride in a hot air balloon, there were other ways of keeping busy.
"My favorite part is the obstacle course trampoline. It's a lot of fun with your family," said Katie Stannard of Hanover N.H.
Although the balloons were grounded Sunday afternoon because of high winds, there were plenty of things going on to keep everyone's spirits lifted.
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