Island park will be aflutter with at least 30 hot air balloons this weekend during the 44th annual Great Wellsville Balloon Rally.
Viewers can watch from the valley below or rise above the rolling hills to witness a backdrop of colorful bulbs, and perhaps catch a glimpse of a new 30-foot purple dragon-shaped balloon named Scorch, piloted by balloonist Keith Sproul.
Scorch will be one of several non-traditional balloon types to appear at this year’s event.
“It’s coming along well. Everything is in place and we’re ready to go,” said Brad Thompson, chairman of the Wellsville Balloon Rally.
Thompson reported that things officially kicked off Saturday with a parade down Main Street, and that balloon teams from across the United States and Canada will convene at Island Park Friday to launch Allegany County’s largest community event into motion.
There are 30 registered balloons in total, which can be viewed best from their launch point at the four baseball fields in the park.
Thompson states that there will be 25 craft vendors offering traditional carnival food options throughout the weekend. The Balloon Rally trailer will be seen at various locations around town selling custom T-shirts to commemorate the event.
Deejay Jeff Wilson will provide an assortment of music Friday and Saturday night.
Something not to be forgotten, Thompson notes, is that Wellsville’s Music on the Lawn series will provide a great lead-in to this weekend’s events, with local musician Terry Buchwald playing as Elvis outside David A. Howe Public Library at 7 p.m Thursday.
The four designated launch times are Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m.
“Friday night, after the launch, some of the balloons will come back at dusk for an Afterglow event,” Thompson said. “It’s a great photo opportunity for people.”
A firework show provided by Otis Easton Services will take place from 9:45 to 10 p.m. Saturday.
When asked how to describe the experience of attending the Balloon Rally, Thompson said, “You can take a single small balloon and have a crowd of people and put some helium it and let it go, and those people will stand there and watch it for hours. So when you multiply that by about 1,000 times and multiply that again by 30, that’s what you get. Everybody likes to see the balloons in the air.”
In addition to Otis Easton, this year’s Balloon Rally is sponsored by, Shorts Oil & Propane, Gildner & Associates Wealth Management, Armstrong, Bokman, Arvos and Allegany County Tourism among many others.