Every year around the Independence holiday, the city of Ashland becomes the home of an annual BalloonFest. Hot air balloonist from all over the state and some out of state come to our little town to help put on what has become a tradition of sorts. This event has truly become one of Ashland’s biggest anticipated events of the year for many families not just from Ashland but surrounding areas as well. The event offers something for everyone from ages 1 to 100. And best of all, most of the activities are free.
This year the event begins Thursday, July 5th and wraps up on Sunday, July 8th. Last year’s festival featured 36 balloons. “Gordo the Monkey” flown by Liz Magee of Columbia, Mo made it’s first appearance in Ashland in 2006. As the name implies, Gordo-the balloon, is a huge brown and tan monkey head with large protruding ears and all. The sight of Gordo provided entertainment and amazement for attendees both young and old. Another balloon whose sight will delight one and all is the “Purple People Eater”, which appropriately enough is a large purple balloon complete with huge white bug eyes, a large red grin, green pointy ears and six long, purple, gangly inflated arms, or legs? You be the judge, bring the family and stop by this year for an event that promises a fun time for families and event goers from near and far. Another balloon from the past definitely worth seeing is the American (Rocket). This is a rocket-shaped balloon featuring blue, red and white stripes, and gray and proudly displaying “USA” on the side. Pilots of the Sunkissed, Shapes, and Second Wind balloons have been at the BalloonFest every year since it began.
This year’s festival, of course, will include the traditional Balloon Glow. This attraction is a favorite for many. It is done against the darkness of night by using the secondary burner system that provides the glowing effect that illuminates beneath the fabric of the balloon. Every color of the rainbow is featured against the night sky during this display. Be sure not to miss this if planning on attending. The balloon glow will be done weather permitting on Friday, July 6th and Saturday, July 7th at approximately nightfall. There will be hot air balloon races. Last year during BalloonFest, Ashland hosted three nationally sanctioned hot air balloon races sponsored by Donley Ford Lincoln Mercury, a locally owned company and major BalloonFest/race sponsor. At any given time during this event, numerous balloons may be seen gracing the lovely blue skies above Freer Field, as well as, front porches and backyards of many Ashland homes. In the past, for a small fee and if the weather allowed, tethered balloon rides have been offered with some of the balloons.
If the hot air balloons aren’t enough to keep your attention and entertain you, rest assured, there is plenty more to do during this event. For the music enthusiast, this year’s BalloonFest will feature a group from Cleveland, Ohio known as “A Hard Day’s Night”. They are a highly rated Beatles Tribute Band. They have been playing the music of the Beatles all across the country for a decade now. Other stage performances are also slated for this year’s event. There will be sports tournaments. Those held in the past are the Ashland Arrow’s 4×4 Soccer Tournament and the Red, White and Blue Golf Scramble. A local church near the activity of Freer Field on Katherine Avenue usually hosts a huge old fashioned whiffle ball tournament that provides the area residents a fun-filled time. Also planned for this year’s enjoyment are displays and exhibits for almost every topic under the sun. And there will be food concession stands, merchandise tables, children’s games, sponsor booths and an endless supply of patriotic and community camaraderie not only among those native to Ashland, but with those who come from all over the state and beyond to participate in the activity, to those who come to spend time with family and friends over the holiday. Activities and attractions from the festival last year included an Opening Ceremonies, a benefit BBQ, the Old Uniontown Quilt Guild, Ashland High School Band Parents Fun Games, children’s face painting, a large inflatable obstacle course,An Ashland Rotary Pizza Fest, free souvenir photos, a one mile fun run, and a 5k run/walk road race, a toddler push’em, pull’em parade, a juggler, a kids nature walk, and a good old fashioned Ice Cream Social.
There’s plenty of room so everyone’s invited. The city of Ashland offers lodgers a Holiday Inn Express, Day’s Inn, Super 8 and Amerihost Inn along the U.S. 250/I-71 corridor. The Surrey Inn Hotel is located in town right off of Claremont Avenue, closer to the action of Freer Field. The city also offers the benefit of all major fast food restaurants. This year’s crowd is anticipated to draw approximately 10,000 people to this little town conveniently located along Interstate 71 about midway between Ohio’s two major cities, Cleveland and Columbus. The official location of Ashland BalloonFest 2007 will be at Freer Field. The majority of activities including balloon set up and location will be at Freer Field. Freer Field is located off of Center Street/St. Rt. 60 and Morgan Avenue in Ashland, Ohio. Parking is available for a small fee in the Freer Field Lot off of Center Street/St. Rt. 60, behind Dale-Roy School. Parking is also available for a fee at the Ashland University Parking Lot off of Phillips Avenue. The fee goes to support BalloonFest. Handicap parking is also available for a fee ONLY at Freer Field at the Children’s Home Field location off of Center Street/St. Rt. 60. There will be NO handicapped parking on the west side of Freer Field. Those seeking handicapped parking at Freer Field will be required to provide proper identification. Visit www.ashlandballoonfest.org for all the upcoming details of Ashland BalloonFest 2007. Currently, the event is still in the planning stages and a detailed schedule of events has not yet been posted.
Whether you have been to Ashland’s BalloonFest in the past or this will be your first visit, please be certain that this event will provide you and your family with a weekend full of non-stop family fun and entertainment for very little or no cost. Most of all it can provide a lifetime of priceless memories you can enjoy year after year in the safe setting of small town Ashland. Aside from the activities of BalloonFest, Ashland offers three very lovely city parks. Among them the free activities offered are fishing(with a valid fishing license), tennis, a skate park, playgrounds, picnic areas and grills, a place to fly a kite, nature trails, bike trails,etc. Chances are you may even catch a baseball or softball game in progress. Also offered for a fee are public swimming and putt putt. There are numerous campgrounds in Ashland County within reasonable travel distance to Balloonfest activities. If you are in town on the 4th of July, be sure to check out the great fireworks display held at Community Stadium. Parking is available at most lots and on side streets around the stadium for free. Bring your lawn chair and wear your most comfortable shoes if you are planning on attending any of the activities. Town becomes very congested and having to walk long distances may be required. A stoller or wagon for the little ones is strongly suggested. Again for a truly fun, family friendly, inexpensive holiday idea, be sure to consider stopping by the Ashland BalloonFest 2007. You won’t go away disappointed.