Centralia Foundation Park is home to over 35 brilliantly colored hot air balloons every August. It’s the ideal time to take a road trip before the school year begins again. Let the children finish out their summer freedom watching the majesty of the balloons as they soar over Centralia. Both Saturday and Sunday there will be a balloon glow event because one night just isn’t enough.
Tap your toes to the sound of music. Be in awe of the shine and perfection of cars at the auto show. Cheer on cardboard boat races and shop at over 60 craft booths. Fireworks round out the evening on the first night of the festival.
History buffs find plenty to do in the state. Visit the General Dean Suspension bridge, constructed in 1859. See the stately Cholera Cross which was erected in 1850. Look into the past by exploring a replicated civil war fort. If you are a wine lover, choose a few wineries and make an afternoon of sampling local wines. Fans of all things agricultural can hit the markets for produce, eggs, and more.
Tickets are available at the gate. This fabulous weekend is a bargain for sure, with daily entrance less than $5 a person. A three-day pass is an option for those who plan to go to the fest every day. Children under six can run and play at the festival free of cost. See www.centraliachamber.com/balloon-fest for the complete schedule and tips on how to make the weekend a top-notch event.
Enter the coordinates in your GPS and put your motorhome on the road to fun. Visit IDOT (the Illinois Department of Transportation) for statewide road alerts and weather delays. Keep informed for a safe trip. U.S. Route 51 brings you close to the festival. Be on the lookout for signs directing you to the festival parking.
Parking should be a breeze. For less than $5 a day, you can leave your RV directly at the Centralia Foundation Park. If you would like a free option, head over to the Old High School lot and take the shuttle from there. Call the Greater Centralia Chamber of Commerce for detailed information on these parking choices.
South Central Transit services the area, so have their website in your trip planner. Check the schedules and fares daily as you decide on your mode of transportation. Alternatively, hop in a taxi or use a ridesharing service to get to the balloon fest. It is a stress-free way to get to the fun and see Centralia if driving your motorhome there is not your preference.
Centralia Balloon Fest does not offer onsite camping because of its location and size, but there are several exciting possibilities just minutes away. Before leaving home, have a family meeting to discuss the amenities and special additions each family member prefers. Spend an evening choosing the itinerary and where to stay with an RV.
Camping is possibly a hop, skip and jump from the festival. Choose an RV campground near Centralia or venture into Mt. Vernon, Whittington, or Xenia for a bevy of spots sure to please. Camp under a canopy of trees, or claim a campsite with wide-open spaces. What is important to you? Cycling, hiking, fishing, or a campground that offers the best hiking in the state? Is boating on your list of things to do? Visit Eldon Hazlet State Park to make it happen. Enjoy the planning stages and make the selection based on your recreational likes.
The fest is held at Centralia Foundation Park, an expansive green space with an abundance of wildlife. Keep this in mind as you make your way around the park. Wet weather may make the maneuverability of wheelchairs, strollers, and wagons a bit challenging, so bring along a friend or two who can offer assistance if needed. Hoverboard, bicycles, inline skates, and skateboards are not permitted in the park. Wear comfy shoes and be prepared to walk.
For this camping adventure, pack your suitcases based on the attractions you plan to visit. Warm weather means shorts and t-shirts are ideal for attending Centralia Balloon Fest. Trips to the wineries, historical sites, and souvenir shops will require the same casual, lightweight attire. Bring along rain gear in case showers pass through, and a pair of rubber boots comes in handy for early morning balloon launches on the dewy grass.
Lawn chairs and blankets are a must for viewing the spectacular balloon displays. A flashlight is necessary if you plan to take in the balloon glow event; having a flashlight will also make getting back to the car easier. With hundreds of excellent photo ops every day, you will want your camera on hand. Which balloon is your favorite? Bring pictures home to inspire friends to attend next year.
The best advice for an RV camping trip is to have a well thought out supply list. Sunscreen and bug spray are essentials for attending the balloon festival as well as for time at camp. Hydration is vital, so keep a cooler of ice-cold drinks on the picnic table under the campervan shade cover.
Who’s ready for a meal of campfire chili? Serve hearty bowls alongside salads and warm bread for the ultimate end of the day meal. Cooking is a breeze when your Airstream is fully stocked with kitchen essentials like pots, pans, utensils, linens, and serving items. Clean-up can be easy, too. Just be sure to top up the propane and water supplies before leaving home and have a few helpful cleaning products on hand, such as eco-friendly dish soap.
While in town on a shopping and sightseeing excursion, take a break at one of Centralia’s many eateries. Stay awhile at a casual tavern for a feed of fish and chips, or make a stop for a grilled sandwich or slice of pizza at the local pizzeria or grill. Smoked or barbecued food is always a treat. Get your fill and then head back to your favorite state park or mom-and-pop campground.
Over 60 vendors await under the tents at Centralia Balloon Fest. Crafts to suit every taste, from jewelry to clothing to woodworking, await. Coolers and alcohol are not permitted at Foundation Park, so be sure to patronize the food vendors and enjoy a bite to eat and a refreshing drink. Take your food and head to the picnic tent for a break from the sun, or set up a blanket in a shady area of the park.
Follow the park rules and always be aware of the tether lines of the balloons. Remind the kiddos not to walk on the lines and to keep a respectable berth from the balloons and the propane flames that propel them into flight. The venue is bound to be busy. Keep the children at your side and have a game plan in place just in case someone wanders off in the excitement. If you have a concern, ask a volunteer for help.
Sunny skies are always on the menu, but patience is essential in the event that wind or rain makes an appearance. The launching of the balloons is an intricate process, with the right conditions a must for take-off. Launches are planned for dawn and dusk when the wind is the lightest. Bring along rain gear with the plans to have fun no matter the weather. There is plenty to do, and the pilots will be in motion as soon as they can.
Take note of the first-aid tent as soon as you enter the grounds. Staff members are on hand at all times as needed for the pilots and the public alike. Service dogs are allowed on site. Be prepared with certification papers if needed. All other pets must stay at home. The equipment needed to run the balloons can be noisy and frightening to animals.