JACKSON TWP.: The Canton Regional and Jackson-Belden Chambers of Commerce will present the 26th annual Balloon Classic this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Kent State University/Stark State campus.
The event kicks off at sunrise Friday as balloons take flight for Dawn Patrol.
The balloon extravaganza typically serves as the first event associated with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival that spans consecutive weekends. This year, however, the balloon fest is starting a week earlier than usual to avoid a conflict with the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships next week in Texas.
The start date isn’t the only change to the event; new educational programs will be added as well.
“This year, we will be having a balloon education area for the kids,” Canton Chamber representative Laura Perry said. “They will learn how the balloons lift off and be able to watch how they are made.”
A part of that education includes the science of piloting the balloons. Directing the hot air balloon is 100 percent based on the wind.
All balloon pilots are briefed on wind speed, direction and weather before each flight. Balloons fly best in winds less than 8 mph, with 5 mph considered ideal.
The weather needs to be almost perfect for the balloons to take off, so spectators are advised to check conditions before heading to the festivities.
Parking is available for $5 after 3 p.m. each day. Spectators should bring a chair or blanket for seating.
There also will be skydivers, vendors and plenty of entertainment for the event, which brings large numbers of spectators into the Jackson Township area. A fireworks display is planned for Saturday night.
“We are expecting over 130,000 people to attend the event,” Perry said.
Here is the schedule:
Friday: 5 a.m., Dawn Patrol; 6:30 a.m., media flights; 5:30 p.m., Balloon Classic opens; 6:30 p.m., balloons launch; 9:30 p.m., Night Glow show.
Saturday: 6:30 a.m., balloons launch; 4 p.m., food fest opens; 5:30 p.m., Balloon Classic opens; 6:30 p.m., balloons launch; 10 p.m., fireworks.
Sunday: 6:30 a.m., balloons launch.