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Great Falls Balloon Festival planned for Aug. 19-21

The 19th Annual Great Falls Balloon Festival will be held along the banks of the Androscoggin River once again, with balloons launching twice per day from Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., weather permitting.

The festival kicks off Friday morning, August 19 and will run through the early evening of Sunday, August 21. This year’s theme, “Critters in the Clouds,” is a reference to the special-shaped balloons: Hootie the Owl, Annie the Ladybug and Bud E. Beaver.

A full slate of entertainment and activities will take place at both Simard Payne Park and Festival Plaza in Auburn. Local favorites Denny Breau, Terry & The Telstars and The Don Campbell Band will join more than 20 other musicians, local organizations and other entertainers to provide three days worth of enjoyment to crowds expected to exceed 100,000 people.

“Whether you come for the entertainment or for the many food booths hosted by local nonprofit groups, or for the children’s area, the field demonstrations, the crafters and artists, the carnival, or the memorable experience of watching the balloons launch (or maybe even take a ride in one), you will certainly enjoy this free community event,” said Rick O’Brien, president of the festival’s board of directors.

Dr. John Reeder returns as the most powerful man at the festival: the balloonmeister. Reeder, a longtime local chiropractor and professional hot air balloon pilot, has the task of coordinating the launches and has to make the decision if weather conditions are suitable for a launch. Last year, five of six scheduled launches were able to get off the ground.

“When you’re flying, you get the sense that you’re floating,” said Reeder, who has been flying for around 25 years. “I like flying low and going right over the tops of the trees and interacting with people watching from the ground. On the morning flights, they’ll often come outside in their night clothes!”

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