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Big beautiful balloons

Fifth annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival Friday and Saturday

Posted: July 27, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:00 a.m.

The Citrus Classic Balloon Festival begins today.

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It felt like the balloon hung from a hook in the blue sky — a hook that slowly rose or descended as the temperature of the air inside the balloon changed. There was never any feeling of “danger,” even when the balloon basket scraped the tops of lemon trees.

This, and a sense of serene awe, were the primary impressions I thoroughly enjoyed during my courtesy balloon ride with Fantasy Balloon Flights on June 28.

Fantasy’s Steve Wilkinson was the expert balloon pilot on this flight, a promotion for the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival, for which he will serve as “balloon meister,” in charge of all balloon activities.

I can only thank my lucky stars I was able to enjoy this flight, and feel sorry for anyone who never experiences a balloon ride. So, I’d highly suggest you attend the Balloon Festival to see what this sport is all about.

Majestic hot air balloons return to Ventura County for the fifth annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival July 27 and 28 in Santa Paula. Festivities lift off Friday at 6:30 a.m. with Sunrise Balloons, offering tethered balloon rides to the public (and mass balloon ascensions if weather permits). Spectators will marvel, watching up close as pilots and crews operate these fantastical giants.

The fun continues with the Kids Discovery Fest, a new, budget-friendly attraction. Kids and parents alike enjoy many free, interactive learning and crafts activities in Agriculture Alley and Balloon Discovery. Stations include a citrus ranch tour, Top 10 Crops of Ventura County, hydroponics, beneficial insects, scavenger hunt, build-a-balloon crafts, water balloons, walk-in balloon display and Nifty Balloons Stage Show. Inflatables, water balls, kiddie train, face painting, and a recycled art contest keep all entertained. After the outdoor concert by Skick, a sizzling new youth band from Simi Valley, Kids Discovery Fest concludes and gates are closed at 4 p.m.

Gates re-open at 5 p.m. for the Evening Balloon Glow, showcasing the Ventura County Winery Association’s Tasting Pavilion, live music by Cole Citrenbaum, and the popular Sunset Wine Dinner, a delicious al fresco wine dinner with limoncello tastings. As pilots from across the nation prepare their hot air balloons, crowds enjoy food and craft vendors, carnival games and the Headliner Concert by Caught Red-Handed, a country-western favorite from Camarillo.

Then the hot air balloons inflate and illuminate during the Evening Balloon Glow. The ferris wheel will offer amazing birds-eye views for photo buffs and kids alike. The celebration continues after the Balloon Glow, with limoncello specialty cocktails and hot Latin and pop favorites by Juano & Friends.

Festivities continue Saturday morning with Sunrise Balloons and tethered balloon rides available to the public (and mass balloon ascensions if weather permits). Spectators enjoy breakfast from food vendors, or get active with water balls, Build ’Em-Race’Em Cars, zumba dance demonstrations, carnival games and the ferris wheel, inflatables, kiddie rides, face painting, and craft vendors.

Starting at 10:30 a.m, the Fillmore & Western Train offers festivalgoers free train shuttles between the balloon festival and historic downtown Santa Paula.

The Taste of Ventura County Tasting Pavilion offers samples of limoncello vinaigrette, baked goods, salsas, gourmet olive oils and local food products, hosted by Rancho Camulos Museum (noon - 6 p.m.). Stop by the Rancho Camulos information exhibit and learn about their ongoing activities and the fifth annual Ramona Days Sept. 29.

Live music kicks off at 1 p.m. with local favorites including Durango 95, the Shoemaker Brothers, Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy, and Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats.

The hot local talent pairs nicely with the Craft Beer and Wine Tasting Pavilions and the Glow N’Show Car Show (2 p.m. - 7 p.m.) for a relaxing summer afternoon.

Anticipation builds as historic biplanes and skydivers of the Santa Paula Airport fly overhead. The Headliner Concert with Army of Freshman at 7 p.m. jump starts the Evening Glow of the Blue Moon, sponsored by Miller Coors. Spectators again marvel as the hot air balloons inflate and glow among the crowd. Then Ventura’s Big Band takes the stage and festivalgoers dance the night away.

For details, visit www.citrusclassicballoons.com. The Citrus Classic Balloon Festival takes place off Highway 126 at the East Area 1 Soccer Fields, 18249 East Telegraph Road, Santa Paula, CA 93060.

Friday and Saturday tickets: adults $10 gate; youth (5 - 14) $5 gate; 5 and under free. Kids Discovery Fest Tickets: Kids 7 and younger free; $3 adults or youth (8 - 14); $5 adult/youth Combo Tickets.

 

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