Look up: Hot-air balloons over the Hudson

More than 75 balloon takeoffs are scheduled from July 4 - 6, weather permitting. (photo by Bob Jagendorf)

The 23rd annual Dutchess County Balloon Festival will take to the skies this holiday weekend. Several locations on the Poughkeepsie waterfront will offer prime viewing spots to see hot-air balloonists from all over the country converge on our region to float en masse above the Hudson River throughout the weekend. More than 75 balloon takeoffs are scheduled from July 4 through July 6, weather permitting.

Viewing is free, with costs covered by event sponsor the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce. All of the launches are open to the public, and many feature extras like food and beverages.

The festival begins on Friday, July 4 with a dozen evening launches scattered throughout Dutchess County at 6 p.m. To see a balloon launch from the ground up, visit the following locations in Poughkeepsie: the Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital of Westchester at 241 North Road, the Lutheran Care Center at 965 Dutchess Turnpike, Shadows on the Hudson at 176 Rinaldi Boulevard, Sprout Creek Farm at 34 Lauer Road, Abilities First at 70 Overocker Road (includes ice cream treats), the Cloud 9 Motel at 2349 South Road, the TEG Federal Credit Union at 1 Commerce Street (includes free ice cream) or the Health Quest corporate offices at 1351 Route 55 in LaGrange. Schlathaus Park at 126 All Angels Hill Road in Wappingers Falls, Greig Farm at 223 Pitcher Lane in Red Hook and Migliorelli Farm at 245 Guski Road in Red Hook (the latter with a food truck and live music) will all launch two balloons each, and the Poughkeepsie Galleria will launch four balloons.

The next day, Saturday, July 5, all balloons in town will dot the sky over the Hudson River by 6 a.m., taking off from the docks of the Hudson River Rowing Association. The Walkway over the Hudson will be open early for guests seeking an elevated vantage point.

That evening, another round of 6 p.m. departures will take place from various sites before the festival comes to an end on Sunday, July 6 at 6 a.m. with another mass launch at the Hudson River Rowing Association Boathouse. Since hot-air balloons are sensitive to weather conditions, check the status of all launches for last-minute changes in the schedule on the Chamber’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dutchesschamber.
In addition, a special Moon Glow launch is scheduled for Saturday, July 5 at the Vassar Alumnae House. The launch takes place after dark and features a specially treated balloon shining brightly against the night sky as it rises.
Those inspired by the colorful sight of so many hot-air balloons can take the experience a step further by making arrangements to go up in a balloon with a trained and certified professional pilot through Bill Hughes of Poughkeepsie-based Blue Sky Balloons. Hughes has been in the hot-air balloon business in the Hudson Valley for some 40-plus years now with a perfect safety record, and says that he’ll have plenty of balloons and Federal Aviation Administration-certified pilots available for hire during the festival. Morning flights just after sunrise take off from the boathouse outside Marist College and evening flights, prior to sunset, leave from a variety of destinations.

The cost is $225 per person. For more information, including an informative virtual flight video that demonstrates how the balloons work, visit https://www.blueskyballoons.com or call (888) 999-2461. When asked what he thinks the biggest misconception about hot-air balloon flights is, Hughes answers without hesitation. “They’re not as scary as you think,” he says.

Free parking is available at all locations on a first-come, first-served basis. At some sites, parking is limited and early arrival is recommended. Follow posted signs or volunteer instructions at each site, and plan to arrive about 20 minutes prior to the scheduled launch time at all sites to see the balloon inflate and rise. For a complete list of launch times and sites, visit https://www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival.

23rd annual Dutchess County Balloon Festival, Friday-Sunday, July 4-6, free viewing; (845) 454-1700, extension 1000, https://www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival.

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