People who are drawn to hot air balloons and aircraft enthusiasts will have plenty to see and do at Festival of Flight 2015.
The event, which will take place from Sept. 11 through Sept. 13 at Tampa North Flight Center, features hot air balloon rides, tethered balloon rides, two balloon glows, two balloon launches, helicopters, planes, live music, a specialty car show and more.
Admission is free and parking is $5.
The festival expects to have 30 balloons coming from Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, said Jessica Warren, the festival director. There may be even a balloon coming in from Colorado, she said.
Warren also expects about 30 other aircraft: biplanes, war birds, a glider, Cessna and others.
“We have a lot of planes coming in from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, New Smyrna Beach,” Warren said. The festival is advertised through airports, to let pilots know what is happening.
“A lot of the Facebook advertising that we do targets aviation enthusiasts. There are different clubs on there that we’ve shared the information with, to let them know that it’s happening,” she said.
The festival also will have kites, radio-controlled aircraft, food vendors and entertainment.
There are some new features at the festival, too.
“We have bounce houses this year, which we didn’t have in years past. We have the balls that walk on water. You get inside of them and you walk,” Warren said. And, she added, “We’re trying to get a gyrosphere.”
This year’s food vendors include Happy Hangar Café, Salsa Slow Smoked BBQ, Collins Concessions, Heavenly Snow – New Orleans, The Bacon Boss Food Truck, Jimmy’s Slider Food Truck, Kona Ice of Wesley Chapel and Churroland.
There’s also going to be a car show, featuring BMWs and exotic cars.
Helicopter rides start at $25 and tethered balloon rides are $10. The hot air balloon rides are sold out, but a waiting list is being kept. The hot air balloon rides are $189.
There also will be a Quilt of Valor presentation on Friday night, to honor veterans who served in a war zone.
It’s a special presentation, Warren said. “You have to be nominated, and you only receive one in a lifetime.”
All together there are 56 vendors, 11 bands, 30 balloon pilots and at least 30 airplane pilots.
“We have about 20 volunteers coming from Grow Life Church. We have about 30 volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol,” Warren said.
Parking will be at the Compark 75 property, which is next door to the airport and shuttle service will be provided.
When the event started three years ago, Warren knew it would grow.
And, it is attracting widespread interest.
“We have people flying in just for the festival all of the way from Puerto Rico, Maryland, New York. I have people who have called me from all over the United States. These are people who are just coming to see the balloons,” Warren said.
“We still want to kind of keep it in the small-town feel that Wesley Chapel, is. But just like Wesley Chapel is growing, we are growing, too,” Warren said.
Festival of Flight 2015
What: American Balloons and Tampa North Flight Center host the Festival of Flight 2015
When: Sept. 11 to Sept. 13
Where: At the Tampa North Flight Center, 4241 Birdsong Blvd., in Lutz. The particulars: There will be hot air balloons, planes, kites, helicopters, live music, tethered balloon rides, a specialty car show, vendors and more. On Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, there will be an evening balloon glow. On Sept. 12 at and Sept. 13, there will be a hot air balloon launch. Admission is free. Parking is $5. For information and full schedule of events, visit FestivalOfFlightWesleyChapel.com.
Published September 2, 2015