Cambridge Balloon Festival grounded

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Courtesy of Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce. Pilots at the Cambridge Balloon Festival were able to take advantage of one of the few breaks in the wet weather this weekend to inflate their balloons for all to see, but no flying took place.

By Doug LaRocque

NYVT Media

There is an age-old phrase “you can’t fight city hall.” Turns out you can’t fight Mother Nature either.

Despite their best efforts, the organizers of the Cambridge Balloon Festival had to scrub all four planned balloon launches over the weekend because of rain and wind. Some of the other events did go on, such as the carnival and food trucks on the Cambridge school grounds, the pilot’s barbecue and breakfast, and the Lion’s Club car show.

There was a break in the weather Sunday afternoon but by then, people were breaking down, packing up and headed home.

The sun was out for a while on Friday morning as well, enough so Cambridge Elementary School students were able to join the balloon pilots as they inflated the balloons, both an exciting and educational experience. They also were able to view the balloon, ready to fly but still securely tethered to the ground.

Courtesy of Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce. Children from the Cambridge Elementary school were able to join some pilots Friday morning for a hands-on experience with all the work involved in uncrating and inflating a hot-air balloon.

The economics of it

When the weather is bad, it not only takes the fun out of it, but the money as well.

The Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce hosts the balloon festival each year, and their president, Lisa Pembroke, said, “Official balloon merchandise sales were down and that’s where we make money to go toward bringing the festival back each year. This is why we say our sponsors truly make this happen. Without the sponsorships, on a weekend the weather doesn’t cooperate, we wouldn’t be able to pull this festival off financially. It cost upwards of $20,000 to bring this festival to our community. We gladly accept donations in any amount and our sponsor list comes out in January for anyone interested in helping us get 2025 off to a good start.”

The storm that blew in just before opening ceremonies Friday caused them to be postponed for only the second time in 22 years and severely hampered attendance at the carnival. Although the morning and evening flights were also scrubbed on Saturday, it was a fairly good day for the carnival and the other events.

“I haven’t gotten feedback from all yet, but our crowd was up and the few I did get to speak to were happy with sales,” Pembroke said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to speak to all our local businesses, but the Country Gals Cafe (best breakfast in Washington County three years in a row) had a phenomenal weekend. The Lions Club Car Show had over 30 cars registered and James Griffith commented it was a success.”

The grounding of all flights over the course of the weekend was unusual, Pembroke said.

“We can’t remember in all 22 years ever having a weekend where we didn’t get at least one flight in,” she said. “Typically, if the weather is iffy, we can at least pull off the morning flights. This year, however, the rain kept us grounded for both morning launches.”

Planning is already in the works for next year’s festival, which will be held June 6-8, 2025.