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Balloons Over Morgantown flying this weekend

Waltzing Matilda, Snap Dazzle, Gooney Bird, Fun One II, Mountain Momma — these are just a few of the 17 hot air balloons from seven different states that you might see flying across the skies of Morgantown this weekend during the annual Balloons Over Morgantown event presented by University Toyota.

“People like balloons,” said Andy Claydon, University Toyota president.  “If you see a balloon in the sky it’s an exciting thing, but if you see a lot of balloons in the sky together, sometimes it makes you feel really good about life — I think it brings happiness to a lot of people.”

Balloons Over Morgantown is an adaptation of the former Morgantown Balloon Festival — which could no longer be held due to space issues and safety concerns.

“When we used to have the festival we had an area where we could have shows and things and cars parked and balloons launching — now there is just nowhere we can do that close enough to Morgantown,” said Claydon.  “Balloons Over Morgantown allows us to bring balloons to Morgantown.”

The weekend-long event kicks off between 6:30-7 p.m. Thursday with a Balloon Nightglow.  Participating balloons will be at the Morgantown Mall in Westover showing off their brilliant colors as they light up to glow against the night sky.

Throughout the rest of the weekend, there will be five launches scheduled from the Morgantown Municipal Airport.  Friday and Saturday launches are planned for about 8 a.m., with a second launch each day around 4 p.m.  A final launch will be held around 8 a.m. Sunday.

Everything with flying hot air balloons is weather-dependent, so launches may be canceled if the weather is bad or winds are too high. 

With strong winds predicted to be coming up from the south, Claydon said “We need to be lucky this weekend.”

While the public is not allowed in the launch area near the main runway, the balloons will still be visible from areas around the airport fence.

Claydon said parking in the area around the airport is difficult, but the public is welcome to watch from outside the fence if they can safely do so.

If watching the launches isn’t enough, chasing balloons is another fun activity for those wanting more balloon action.  You can pick a balloon at the launch or one that flies overhead, then follow it until it lands — sometimes you can even participate in packing it up.

Traditionally, Claydon said, balloon pilots will gift a bottle of champagne to the property owners where they land and may even tether the balloon and allow any children in the area to ride up 20-30 feet in the air.

Aside from the launch site at the airport, it is nearly impossible to say the best places to see a balloon or even what direction they will be flying — many times the balloons will travel different directions at every launch.

“Balloons can only go up and down — they can’t steer — so they go wherever the wind takes them and the wind is different and goes different directions at different heights,” Claydon said.  

“No one knows if they’re going to go 2 miles or 30 miles — no one knows which direction.  You would think if they all are going to take off at the same time, they’re all going to end up at the same place — they don’t.”

Event organizers will post updates on what direction balloons are flying after each launch and where the best areas to see them might be, Claydon said.  You can follow Balloons Over Morgantown on Facebook to check the general direction they are headed each day.

“Last year especially we had a few flights that flew right over town — people flying over the Coliseum and the hospitals, the university and everything — it was a real picture opportunity,” he said.

For a full list of the balloons, pilots, and sponsors participating in this year’s Balloons Over Morgantown, visit their website balloonsovermorgantown.com or visit the Balloons Over Morgantown Facebook page.

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