Ballooning FAQ Frequently Asked Questions about Ballooning

When will the balloons be at the festival?

Understand that ballooning is an EXTREMELY WEATHER DEPENDENT activity. Balloon Festival attendees need to understand that even if there are clear skies, the WIND must be less than 8 mph in order to operate safely. (Tethered balloons typically require 6mph winds or less to operate.)

This is why ballooning happens early in the morning right after sunrise and late in the evening just before sunset. When the Sun is high in the sky, it creates a convection effect that generates more wind. Therefore, the balloons will NOT be at the park in the middle of the day! We have other activities for the entire family during the day! 

BALLOONS ARE NOT PRESENT AT THE FESTIVAL BETWEEN THE MORNING LAUNCHES AND EVENING LAUNCHES except for tethered balloons.Tethered Rides operate for a few hours after sunrise and a few hours prior to Sunset and may cease when wind/weather conditions change.

Can I purchase a Tethered balloon ride?

Tethered Balloon Rides: Tethered balloon rides will be available for purchase on site. Cost: $20/person. Tethered balloon rides will operate from ~6:30 – 10:00 AM and from ~5:00 PM until the festival closes each night DEPENDENT UPON WEATHER conditions. The Balloon Pilot or the Harvard Balloon Fest Balloonmeister may shut down tethered rides without notice due to safety concerns. Rides last 3-5 minutes. Tethered balloons can go from 20’-80’ but the Pilot determines altitude based on current weather conditions.

wheelchair accessible Tethered Balloon Basket will be available Saturday and Sunday night.

Can I purchase a balloon ride in one of the 5 Scheduled Ascensions?

The Harvard Balloon Fest is selling balloon rides on the 5 scheduled launches through the Lake Geneva Balloon Company on a FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED basis. Go to the Store for Balloon rides NOW.

Cost: $290/person. 

Sep 1st, Friday
Evening (Launch Window 5:00-6:30 PM)

Sep 2nd, Saturday
Morning (Launch Window 6:30-7:30 AM)
Evening (Launch Window 5:00-6:30 PM)

Sep 3rd, Sunday
Morning (Launch Window 6:30-7:30 AM)
Evening (Launch Window 5:00-6:30 PM)

Must be at least 6 years old. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

All launches are subject to wind/weather cancellations.

There are only about 15 rides available for each launch.

Why so few?

Only pilots with a commercial license are permitted by the FAA to take a paying passenger. Not all of the pilots participating are commercial pilots. Some hold private pilot licenses.

Not all balloon baskets can carry the same number of passengers. There will be 2, 3, and 4 passenger baskets at the festival.

Ballooning is EXTREMELY weather dependent. It can be clear skies, but if winds exceed 8 mph, the flight will be canceled.   Balloons are over 7 stories tall and in high winds could cause injury to spectators, damage to property, and damage to the balloon. The Balloonmeister has complete and final authority to cancel any flight, including stopping and deflating the tethered balloon ride.

How many balloons will there be?

The City has contracted 20 balloons for the festival.

How long does it take to inflate a balloon?

Balloons inflate in about 15-20 minutes. After the envelope has been set out, pilots and ground crews will use a large gasoline engine powered barrel fan to blow air into the envelope to start filling it with air. Once enough air has been blown in, the pilot will start using his burner to heat the air and allow the envelope to rise and stand up the balloon.

Can balloons pilots steer the balloon?

No, not really. Pilots increase altitude by heating more of the air, or lower altitude by opening a vent and allowing hot air to escape. By changing altitude, the pilot can then seek wind which is blowing in the direction that they wish to travel. Balloons float and are pushed by the wind, therefore they cannot fly up wind or even cross wind. Pre-flight planning is an extremely important aspect of flying as pilots have to ensure that they know the current wind direction and speed, and account for suitable landing zones where the winds will push the balloon during flight.

How big are the balloons?

Hot air balloons have 3 parts: The envelope, the basket, and the burner system.

The most popular sport balloon is approximately 55 feet wide (diameter) and 70 feet high, which is about the same as a 7-story building. It has 1,075 square yards of nylon fabric in its envelope (or one-fifth of an acre in surface area), more than 3 miles of thread, and almost one-half mile of nylon webbing (used for reinforcing). Its 77,550 cubic foot air capacity displaces almost 3 tons of air and could hold 62,279 bushels of apples or 579,340 gallons of water. These sport balloons can carry 3 to 4 people.

The envelope can vary in size depending upon if it is sporting balloon to a commercial balloon with specialty shapes. The most popular is the sport balloon which is about 55 feet in diameter and 7 stories high. There is about 1/5 of an acre of surface area, more than 3 miles of thread is used to sew the panels together, and about half a mile nylon webbing is used for reinforcing! but the most used size is about 70,000-99,000 cubic feet. They are 7-8 stories tall and can carry 3-5 people.

The basket is what the passenger and the pilot ride in. It is commonly made of woven wicker due to its lightweight, strong durability, and ease of repair if damaged.

The Burner uses propane to ignite a gas/air mixture and direct the flame and exhaust into the throat of the envelope to heat the air inside. The burner can deliver between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 BTU/hour. Compare that to the average furnace to heat a 2000 sq. ft home is only ~120,000 BTU/hr.

How much does a hot air balloon cost?

Ballooning is an expensive hobby! Smaller sporting balloons can cost $25,000-$40,000 and can typically carry 1-3 people. Larger commercial balloons start at around $50,000 and go up from there. The more passengers required to carry, the larger the balloon envelope and basket.

When near Harvard Tune to 101.3FM WHIW for Balloon Festival related information during the event.


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