Robert Metz, of Avon, has been coming to the Plainville Hot Air Balloon Festival for 17 years.
“I started about 35 years ago. I took one ride and I was hooked,” he said.
Sunday, he pulled into the Plainville park before the sun was up, rolling out the rigging to his hot air balloon.
Spectators who arrived early caught a glimpse of the crews setting up.
“I just want to see how it all goes together,” Brenda Belanger, of Newington, said.
Though she’s never been up in one, Belanger inked her love of hot air balloons on her leg.
“It’s my dream to go on one,” she explained.
As balloons began to take shape over their baskets, spectators stared at the spectacular sight surrounding them. Balloons rose up from the ground, ready for the weekend's final flight.
“I like to see all the different balloons that are around. It’s just really cool,” said Sarah Ford of Plainville.
Thanks to the good weather they’ve made all four launches this weekend, and seen a record crowd. More than 25,000 people on the first night alone, according to the festival’s sponsor.
“It does keep getting bigger. I think it’s becoming more popular,” said First Lt. Kurt Plourde, a leader on the Plainville volunteer fire department.
While the public could watch the balloons launch for free, sales of food and craft space raised money for the fire department’s scholarship fund. They said it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.
“This is a perfect weekend. You don’t always get a weekend where you get all the flights in, so this is a great weekend for us,” said Metz.
As the bright balloons colored the Connecticut sky, people looked up in amazement.
“I think it’s a lot of fun to see the little kids, it’s great to see their reaction,” Ford pointed out.
“They were all up in the sky and we even saw them blow up,” five-year-old Reese Naughton of Southington said.”
The little girl seemed mesmerized by the balloons, and she wasn’t the only one. The festival attracted plenty of families.
“We’ve done it at least four or five years in a row. We bring our children out and it’s a great time,” said Reese’s father, Pat.
Soaring high, those flying through the air said the feeling is unmatched.
“You’re up there. You’re free from just about everything. You just float around. You get a totally different perspective on what the world looks like.”
They stayed up for about an hour, and landed where the wind took them. One owner was able to steer his balloon toward the Rock Cats stadium before the team’s final home game in New Britain.”