BALLOON HISTORY … NOW AND THEN!
THE FESTIVAL THROUGH THE YEARS: THE 2000s
The Beach Boys headline the live concert series in 2000, making the Festival the place to be for summer fun. Two years later concerts expand to all three days with The Beach Boys, Hall & Oates and Dave Mason performing.
Following the attacks of 9/11, Barry DiLibero creates a balloon in the shape of the American flag. At 53 feet high, 78 feet across and 29 feet deep, it is the world’s largest free-flying American flag. The “PNC Salutes America” balloon immediately becomes a Festival favorite in 2002 and has flown here every year since.
Everyone loves QuickChek, and in 2006 “Gentleman Joe” Manchetti proves it by eating a world record 6¾ fully loaded six-inch QuickChek Original Toasted Italian subs in 10 minutes.
We launch careers, too! In 2007, looking to meet the needs of our teens and tweens, the up-and-coming Jonas Brothers perform. Shortly thereafter, they become hottest ticket in the music industry. Fellow Disney teen sensation Demi Lovato rocked the Festival one year later.
The Darth Vader balloon takes over the skies over Central New Jersey in 2008. In 2015, he’d go head-to-head with the Yoda balloon in an epic showdown on the Balloon Launch Field.
For those who couldn’t run with the bulls in Pamplona, the first Running with Balloons 5K takes place in 2010. Our research shows no one has ever been gored by a balloon.
In 2011, QuickChek’s title sponsorship becomes the longest running title sponsorship of any festival in the United States.
Jennifer “The Cannon Lady” Smith, one of the few female human cannonballers in the world, blasts into Festival lore as its most popular attraction.
In 2012, the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is named the #1 Thing to Do in the state by New Jersey Monthly magazine.
Joan Jett becomes the first female performer to headline the concert series in 2014.
In 2015, the Festival sets an all-time attendance record with 175,000 people attending over the 3 day weekend. A record 1,500 people take hot air balloon rides, shattering all previous records and taking a magic carpet ride in the sky here becomes a must.
2017: 12 special shaped balloons, 5 concerts, 1 big anniversary. Come celebrate 35 years of family fun with us!
THE FESTIVAL THROUGH THE YEARS: THE 90s
Sports promoters Howard Freeman and John Korff, in search of a showcase event for the Garden State, purchased the festival from Bill Lewis in 1993. They met with fresh convenience market chain QuickChek, based in Whitehouse Station, NJ about becoming title sponsor. Eight minutes into their 10-minute meeting a deal is struck.
The newly named QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will soon become known for bringing in the newest and best “special shaped” hot air balloons in the world. It starts with featuring Malcolm Forbes’ amazing re-creation of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The following year, 1994, music is in the air as New Jersey’s own Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes are the first major concert headliners to perform at the Festival.
In 1995, bigger is better. The world’s largest balloon, the bright pink Energizer Bunny, takes flight. At 166 feet, it is 15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
That same year, the Festival experience gets more enriching as attendees can escape the crowds by joining the new VIP Blue Sky Club. This VIP experience will take off with priority seating along the flight line of the Balloon Launch Field, reserved concert seats, VIP parking and private food service added in the years to come.
The Festival reaches new heights in 1996 with the Skydiving Elvises performing and QuickChek launches the 135-foot-tall American Eagle special shaped hot air balloon. It will be the Festival’s signature balloon for the next 12 years.
In 1998, The Festival’s “Greatest Glow on Earth” nighttime hot air balloon glow is held for the first time. Following Saturday night’s evening mass ascension, balloons are brought down to the Main Stage where they are re-inflated, tethered on the ground and lit up like giants lanterns, “glowing” alongside Saturday night’s headlining concert.
You can be part of history in 2017 when the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank celebrates its 35th anniversary, July 28-29-30 at Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ.
The Festival wasn’t a festival when it started. Flamboyant millionaire adventurer Malcolm Forbes, newspaper publisher Tom Curley, Bill Lewis and friends brought 10 balloons to a local truck stop on Route 78 as a weekend gathering of balloon enthusiasts in 1983.
Lewis grew that first get-together into an annual festival, attracting 40 balloons and 40,000 people over a 10-year period and moving it to Solberg Airport. Looking to take what had become the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning to the next level, he sold the event to Howard Freeman and John Korff in 1993, who were looking for a showcase event to build around the Garden State.
Experts in promoting live events, they brought in more balloons and more attractions with an emphasis on affordable family entertainment. Live concerts were added.
Today, the 35th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. It is truly a must on anyone’s Summer list of things to do --- more than 100 sport and special
shaped hot air balloons will take to the skies twice each day in mass ascensions over the scenic Hunterdon County countryside. Upwards of 175,000 people and media outlets from around the world are expected at the Festival in 2017.
2017 also marks the 25th year that QuickChek is our title sponsor; it is the longest-running title sponsorship of any festival in the United States. Thanks to their continued generous support, the festival remains an affordable experience for the entire family and enables us to bring in the best balloons, top-flight entertainment and attractions year after year. We are also proud to have donated over $2.6 million to local non-profit organizations and charities throughout the past 25 years.
Look for future newsletters to learn more about the history of the Festival, our plans for our big 35th anniversary, and how you can be a part of our celebrating 35 years of affordable family fun including opportunities for you to go up, up and away on a magic carpet ride in the sky.
Ballooning Then: The History Of Balloon Flight!
The Montgolfier brothers, who owned a paper factory in France in the 1700s, became intrigued by a piece of paper that flew up a chimney under a roaring hearth one day. They began to experiment by filling a small silk bag with smoke and were thrilled as it floated to the ceiling. The Montgolfier brothers wanted to make the first manned flight in a hot air balloon. However, they had promised their father that they would never risk their lives by going up in a balloon. Although there were volunteers for the first manned flight, the balloon flight launched with only a duck, a rooster, and a sheep in the basket. This flight took place at Versailles on September 18, 1783 and was witnessed by King Louis XVI. The animals were unharmed during the eight minute flight.
Did you know?
Benjamin Franklin witnessed the first balloon flight in Paris in 1783 and was a signatory of the official report that went to the Academy of Sciences. The first balloon flight in North America was piloted by Jean-Pierre Blanchard on January 9, 1793.
The flight launched from Philadelphia, PA and landed in Deptford, NJ.
Balloons and Bubbly: Champagne?
Why is champagne closely associated with ballooning? The tradition dates back to the first balloon flight in France. Early balloons were attacked by the landowners with stones, clubs, and pitchforks as they landed, since the landowners believed the balloons to be "fire-breathing monsters." These early French aeronauts found that they could distract the landowners by offering them a glass of champagne. While it is unlikely that today's landowners think of balloons as "fire-breathing monsters," pilots still offer a bottle of champagne to thank them for the use of their land. A champagne toast also takes place after each balloon flight, along with the recitation of the Balloonists' Prayer.
November 21, 1783:
The first recorded manned flight in a hot air balloon takes place in Paris on November 21, 1783.
Constructed from paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, this balloon was piloted on a 22- minute flight by Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d’Arlandes, two noblemen from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
They ascended from the center of Paris 500 feet above the rooftops before eventually landing miles away in a local vineyard.