LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The skies over Lakeland will be more colorful this weekend with the return of the Up Up and Away Florida Hot Air Balloon and Music Festival.
Around 35,000 people are expected to visit the Sun ‘n Fun campus for the annual event. The first event was held in February 2020, but the festival was canceled in 2021.
Balloon pilots from around the country will be there for its return.
“Hot air ballooning is very magical, very whimsical. We like to share it with people, the best way to describe it is standing on the sidewalk and watching the world go by. It’s very calm. It’s very tranquil,” said Chris Sabia, from Kansas City AeroSports, who is flying the Wonder Bread balloon this weekend.
“You have a sense of serenity and calm. Nothing’s going to bother you until you have to land,” said Patrick Nilz, a balloon pilot with Cosmic Crisp Apples from Tucson, Arizona.
Nilz says crews scope out the area to see where pilots should land and what areas they should avoid.
“We really like your golf courses. We really like big open pastures. I’m not used to this green grass. We’re used to landing where there’s dirt,” Nilz said.
The pilots are tracked with an app so their crews can find them.
“It’s like storm chasing. They gotta get to me,” Nilz added.
The festival will include early morning and late afternoon mass ascensions, weather permitting.
People can take tethered rides for $20.
Balloon rides are available by reservation with the balloon pilots prior to the event.
On the ground, visitors can find vendors and shows.
The “Space Adventures Thrill Show” was created by a married couple from Georgia. It incorporates space, rockets and motorcycles into a lesson about STEM.
“We talk about the science, the technology, the engineering, the math. If you believe in something, and you want to create something, you can do it. You just have to have all four of those building blocks,” said co-creator, Jamie Martinez.
Tickets to the festival are $25 at the gate. The event will run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
More information is available on the festival’s website.