Are you enthralled with the sight of a hot air balloon making its way across the sky? Do you wish for a close encounter with a majestic balloon? Take a road trip in your spacious RV and see the wonders of the ballooning world in a front-row seat.
Neighboring cities of Lewiston and Auburn, Maine join together to host the Great Falls Balloon Festival. From an entertaining parade in Auburn to a family day in Lewiston, this balloon festival gears up for a free-flying weekend of dazzling fun.
The skies are filled with hues of the rainbow and show the spectators the grace of the sport. Launches take place early morning and evening, which are prime times weather, wind, and temperature-wise for setting these gigantic inflated shapes afloat. Come and learn the intricacies involved in the launch of a balloon.
Listen to a variety of musical performances on stage, take the kiddos for a carnival ride or two, laugh at the roving entertainers, and book a short but scenic trip in a hot air balloon.
The towns are joined by the Androscoggin River, with Auburn on one side and Lewiston on the other. The balloon fest is spread over two outdoor areas, each on either side of the river.
The Great Falls Balloon Festival is a free event, with proceeds raised by non-profit organizations going to support their causes. It is a huge draw of locals and visitors to the tune of around 100, 000 over the weekend. Book a flight on a balloon with gondolas holding between two and ten people. Check www.greatfallsballoonfestival.org for availability details. Pricing is around $200 per person for the ride of a lifetime.
I-95 north and south run straight to the festivities. Simard-Payne Memorial Park is the launch venue, with activities happening there and across the river in Auburn, accessible by the Auburn Riverwalk pedestrian bridge. Sign up for weather and road alerts on the Maine.gov website for email or text notifications as you travel.
Parking is plentiful and a bargain, with a donation to the non-profit organizations that take care of the logistics at each lot. The City of Lewiston allows these organizations to raise funds this way as a part of the spirit of the event. ADA parking is at the main gate of the Simard-Payne Park and the Auburn Municipal Parking Garage.
The Lewiston and Auburn area has a bus service that may suit your needs. Visit the website to get accurate information on the routes and times. There is a variation between service on weekdays and weekends. Alternatively, look into taxiing to the park or utilizing a ride-share program. With the pedestrian bridge linking the two towns, transiting from one festival venue to another in quite easy.
There are no camping options at the Great Falls Balloon Festival, but because there is so much to do in the area, you will want to know where to stay with an RV close by anyway. Gather the family around and peruse the internet, narrowing down the amenities you want, recommended hikes in the area, and the prime regions for birdwatching.
Don’t be afraid to venture out and explore Maine. Choose what looks like the best swimming hole in Sebago Lake State Park, or set your sights on the best hike in Grafton Notch State Park. No matter whether you choose a state-owned campground or a private paradise, the area is very accessible with a large RV. If a pop-up is your preference, the perfect location awaits as well.
Moving about the grounds is primarily done on foot. Rollerblades, unicycles, skateboards, and scooters are not permitted. The walkway between venues has a constant traffic flow because activities take place on both sides. If you are in a wheelchair, having a friend or family member help you navigate may be wise.
Layering your clothing is the ideal plan when dressing for the balloon fest. Early morning pancake breakfasts at the airfield before the launch and evenings watching the balloon glow event before a stage concert could prove to be chilly if you are not dressed for it. The mid-day hours are perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. Top your outfit with a hat that offers coverage of the ears and neck, and you will be all set.
Your camping supplies will depend on the type of vacation you prefer. Do you like to rough it with primitive camping or have a site decked out with facilities similar to home? If sewer, water, and electricity hookups are a must, then be sure to pack outdoor-ready extension cords, hoses, and clamps to make it all happen. A motorhome has room for fully stocked cupboards, so plan on bringing lawn chairs for around the fire and your favorite set of clubs for hitting the best golfing at a green along the route.
A successful camping trip is a safe one. Campfire etiquette is a topic to be discussed as soon as you reach your desired recreational destination. Respect RV camping rules and adhere to fire regulations. A ban on fires may be in place, for example, because conditions are dry and hazardous. A wayward spark can spell disaster.
Set up camp and scout the RV park for an onsite barbecue. If you have been fishing at the lake, wrap your feast in foil and grill it to perfection. Serve alongside premade potato salad and veggies. Have your outdoor eating items set up at the picnic table for a delicious meal, and have the clean-up crew ready to take over when the chef is done.
Put aside a day to explore the Franco Trail to visit museums and monuments that explain the French history of Lewiston and Auburn. The waters of the Great Falls are an attraction not to be missed, but viewers can expect varying levels of flow. While there, take a break and sample pasta, fish, sushi, pizza, hot dogs, or a tasty bakery quiche. There are many nationalities represented here in the food scene as well if your taste buds are up for something new.
The vendor offerings are extensive at the Great Falls Balloon Festival. Balloon themed items are most likely at the top of the list, and you will find them and more as you peruse the booths. Jewelry, glassworks, and clothing are favorite items featured here. Don’t forget to sample nachos, clam strips, fried Oreos, and maybe an ice cream float. The are ATMs close to the booths to keep you in a supply of cash.
Safety and security are top items on the agenda at any balloon festival. Be aware of the awe of these giant balloons and respect the pilots and their space at every moment. The Great Falls Balloon Festival is one in particular that is held on a relatively small field. This means that parents have to keep tabs on the kiddos at all times. Allow the pilots to converse with each other and determine when a launch is ready to happen. No smoking at any time, and no pets at all, other than service animals with proper identification.
A very rainy day puts a damper on a launch because laying a balloon on the muddy ground to inflate it does not happen. A wet balloon cannot be rolled for storage, and wind and damp conditions are not safe for take-off. The festival goes on rain or shine, so pack rain gear in case it is needed but plan for sunny skies all weekend long.
When you enter town, familiarize yourself with the nearest medical center. At camp, set rules for the kids as to playing near the fire and climbing trees. Limits are a good thing and always have the kids in your line of sight as they play. Of course, bumps and bruises are par for the course. That is why a fully stocked first aid kit is an essential part of your motorhome gear.