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Citrus Classic Hot Air Balloon Festival in Santa Paula

Arise and shine

Posted: July 31, 2009 11:23 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2009 11:11 a.m.

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They hang in the air silently, majestically, almost too colorful to belong, and yet at peace. They move slowly with the breeze and those below might be unaware save for the intermittent roar of the propane flames. They are hot air balloons, and they've come to the second annual Citrus Classic Hot Air Balloon Festival, which lifts off in Santa Paula tonight at 5 p.m.

During the festival, spectators can experience 20 hot air balloons illuminated at sunset, and ascending in the morning to compete in a race through the agricultural corridor of Heritage Valley toward the Pacific Ocean. The festival will also feature live music, a wine and beer garden, a youth soccer clinic, car show, kids' activities, tethered balloon rides, art and craft vendors and food and souvenir booths.

This year's event features a number of improvements over the inaugural festival. "We've improved parking and expanded the venue to eight acres of soccer fields," said Carla Edwards, the event organizer. "It's a great opportunity to relax and spread out. It's quintessential Southern California, with the mountains, citrus and palm trees. The agricultural corridor of Highway 126 is the perfect setting."

She went on to explain that the format has been expanded to include a Friday evening Balloon Glow, Saturday morning launch, and a full day of festivities on Saturday, concluding with the Finale Balloon Glow. "Illuminated by the propane flames from inside, they look like giant Chinese lanterns," she said.

The festival begins on Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m., and guests will enjoy dinner items from food vendors. With wine selections from Southern Wine & Spirits, presented in a rustic wine and beer garden, visitors can browse over 30 booths of arts, crafts and souvenirs to the sounds of live musical entertainment.

Children will delight in Time Warner's Kids Activity Korral, with the new "Einstein's Got Juice" interactive science and technology displays on solar energy, wind power and citrus-powered batteries. There will be an inflatable slide and Jolly Jumps, kiddie trains, face painting, roping demonstrations and Frisbees to round out the offerings.

When the sun starts to set, Ventura County deejay Bruce Barrios kicks off the Evening Balloon Glow. Hot air balloons inflate, then illuminate at dusk. "It's a magical sight with a once-in-a-lifetime feeling," said Edwards. "Visitors are welcome to stroll the balloon arena to view the tethered, ‘glowing' balloons up close, and talk with balloon pilots. A special treat for children are the animal and fruit-shaped balloons."

Gates open at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 to allow time to get coffee and breakfast items from vendors, set up photography equipment, or to place lawn chairs for the best views of the 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Mass Balloon Ascension. One by one, balloons inflate and ascend into the morning skies. The balloons compete in the Hare and Hound Balloon Competition and fly toward the Pacific Ocean. Special shape balloons do not participate in the race. They remain inflated and tethered onsite so spectators can view them up-close and talk with the pilots.

Other activities throughout the day include interactive kid-to-kid roping demonstrations with Rawley Mathis, 10-year old Rodeo Roping Champion, and the Time Warner Kids Activity Korral. Balloonists return to the fairgrounds for a family-style Pilots' Breakfast (8:30 a.m.), which is open to the community.

Dukes Car Club of Ventura County will host a Shine ‘N Show Car Show (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Ventura County's semi-professional Fusion Soccer hosts a youth soccer clinic (10 a.m.), available to children on a first-come basis. Live music acts, celebrity emcees, the Vendor Village and the Wine and Beer Garden provide continuous entertainment throughout the afternoon.

At 6:30 p.m., the closing ceremonies begin with the presentation of the 2009 Citrus Classic Champion Trophy and cash prizes to winners of the Hare and Hound Race. Again, as winds calm, and the sun starts to set, the hot air balloons inflate, then illuminate at dusk. Gates close at 11 p.m.

"It's a feel-good event in a challenging economy," Edwards noted.

Advance tickets are $7 per adult; $3 for youth (14-5 years of age); free for children under age five. Gate Tickets are $10 per adult; $5 for youth (14-5 years of age); free for children under age five. Advance tickets may be purchased from the following organizations: California Welcome Center/Oxnard, (805) 988-0717, www.visitoxnard.com; Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau, (805) 648-2057, www.ventura-usa.com; Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, (805) 525-5561, www.santapaulachamber.com; and Rancho Camulos, (805) 521-1501, www.ranchocamulos.org.

Proceeds from the event go to the Santa Paula Community Fund. For further information visit www.citrusclassicballoons.com.
The festival will be held at Santa Paula's East Area 1 (Teague McKevett Ranch, 18249 East Telegraph Road via Highway 126).

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