Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair
Modern hot air balloons are made from about a thousand yards of ripstop nylon or polyester
and sewn together with miles of seams. The baskets are woven with wicker and most have a
plywood floor. Wicker is favored because it is light, strong, and flexible.
A typical hot air balloon is 55 to 60 feet in diameter, stands about 70 feet tall and carries
3 to 5 people, but they come in all sizes from (relatively) tiny solo balloons to large
models able to carry 22 passengers in a multi-compartment basket.
Because balloons fly with the wind they need gentle winds to have a gentle flight. In
most areas winds must be 9 miles (14km) per hour or less to launch balloons. If it's a beautiful day
for flying a kite, it's probably too windy for a balloon. Pilots also avoid any severe
weather (such as thunderstorms).
Balloons launch at sunrise and a few hours before sunset. While this allows spectacular
photos, the real reason is that winds are calmest at the beginning and the end of the day.
Thermal activity and related winds prevent balloons from flying midday. Although it
requires getting up extra early, sunrise flights are usually best.
While there's no steering wheel, a pilot can change direction by ascending or descending
into a wind going in a different direction. The air above us moves in different directions at
different altitudes, allowing a balloon to shift directions by changing altitude.
You never know where you're going until you get there. That's part of the charm of
ballooning, a balloon goes wherever the winds take it.
OK, you want to take a ride...
Balloon rides originate at the Fairgrounds at Grimes Field in Hillsborough and are scheduled for Friday,
Saturday, and Sunday evenings as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings (weather permitting).
Flights take off as close to 6 o'clock (A.M. and P.M.) as possible and last anywhere from
20 minutes to over an hour. Of course, the length of the flight is heavily dependent upon
the winds and weather conditions of the day.
The cost for a ride is $200 per passenger; most balloons can carry 3-5 passengers as well
as the pilot. Cash, checks and all major credit cards are accepted. To make flight
reservations, you can contact us by telephone at (603) 464-0377 or via email. Don't
forget to leave your daytime telephone number so we can contact you.
If you think you want to take a ride but are not sure there are alternatives for you.
Alternative Number 1: Tethering
At various times during the course of the weekend, balloonists will be tethering.
When a balloon tethers, it is secured to the ground so it will return to the spot from
which it took off. Of course, you are accompanied by the pilot. You will "go up"
about 50 feet then come back to the ground. Tethering is great for people who are
young, uncertain about flying, or fragile. The cost is nominal, $15 per person to
go up for approximately 5 minutes.
Alternative Number 2: Night Glow
A Night Glow isn't a ride, but it is one heck of a show. At dusk on Friday night,
weather permitting, a half dozen or more balloons will inflate at Grimes Field.
Once fully inflated, the propane burner is adjusted so as to create a white flame
that illuminates the balloon and makes it glow. The night glow is free, the only
stipulations are that the public must refrain from smoking and remain a safe distance
away from the balloons while they are inflated.