A festival debuting in Lutz this year celebrates the joys of aviation.
The Festival of Flight, presented by American Balloons and Tampa North Flight Center, will feature hot air balloons, kite-flying demonstrations and aircraft ranging from vintage World War II airplanes to state-of-the art flying machines.
Festivities begin at 7 a.m. on Oct. 19, with a hot air balloon launch and wrap up that day with a night hot air balloon glow at Tampa North Aeropark, 4241 Birdsong Blvd. in Lutz.
Activities will resume at 7 a.m. on Oct. 20, with another hot air balloon launch and activities will conclude around noon.
Those wanting to watch the balloon launches are advised to arrive early and should bring chairs to sit on, according to the event’s website.
“There will be balloons flying in and out,” said Jessica Warren of American Balloons, a company based at the flight center.
Besides the hot air balloons and airplanes, Kiting Tampa Bay will also be there flying kites. And children will be able to make kites, Warren said.
Other plans that are pending include paratroopers dropping in and tethered balloon rides, Warren said.
The event celebrates the renovation of the private airport and the grand opening of The Happy Hangar café.
Various vendors will also be there, offering wares for sale or dispensing information about their businesses. Live music is planned, too.
“We’ve been trying to bring the balloon festival in here for a really long time,” Warren said. “We really need something local. We want to share our love of aviation.”
The Pasco County area is fortunate to have hot air balloon flights, Warren said. The only other place in Florida that offers hot air balloon rides is Orlando. Many people come from around the world to go for rides in her company’s balloons.
“There are only about 5,000 hot air balloonists in the United States,” Warren said, and while they’re spread out around the country, their shared interest in aviation makes them a tight-knit community.
Chuck Norris, a flight instructor at the Tampa North Flight Center, said aviation enthusiasts will have a chance to see some interesting aircraft. They can also purchase rides on a 1942 Boeing Steerman.
Norris is excited about the event.
“This airport has been a very sleepy airport for years. We want to wake it up,” he said.
Organizers intend to make this an annual event, Warren said. In fact, planning for that already has begun, she said.
For more information about this year’s festivities, visit FestivalOfFlightWesleyChapel.com.
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