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WATERFORD — The eighth annual Waterford Balloonfest will be held Thursday through Sunday, July 19-22, behind Evergreen Elementary School, 817 W. Main St.

This year, Waterford will be hosting the U.S. Women’s National Balloon Pilot Championship competition. There will be 14 female pilots coming from all over the United States with two coming from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. These women will be competing for a bid at the World competition in Croatia in 2019.

This free family-friendly festival, the biggest in the state, features hot air balloon activities including competition launches, evening balloon glows and sponsored tethered balloon rides. For more up in the air fun, festival-goers can take a helicopter ride and watch the opening ceremonies with the American Legions Color Guard.

Saturday evening festivities will continue with a mass ascension launch of more than 20 balloons around 6:30 p.m. All hot air balloon activity is weather permitting and the best time for the balloons to fly are 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m. The key consideration in hot air ballooning is the wind speed. Generally, a launch is not feasible when the winds exceed 8 mph. The preferred flying times are just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the winds are lighter and more stable than at any other time throughout the day. Pilots reserve final judgement based upon actual weather conditions observed at the launch site. To take a ride during the festival it must be planned in advance with WindDancer Balloon Promotions. Call 262-522-6675 or email aballoonride@gmail.com prior.

A new component to the festival this year is Milwaukee Rotocross Drone Racing. They will hold their regional competition on the grounds. Races will start at 7 p.m. Friday with a LED lit course and again at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Visitors will have an opportunity to ask questions and meet the drone pilots as they race to make it to the next level.

The festival’s Kids Zone will include a Pop a Shot Basketball, Fairytale princesses meet and greets, Mad Science craft activities, face painting, water bumper boats, “Say Cheese for Charity” picture opportunity and inflatables. For more family-friendly entertainment, check out the Witte Supply Launch Stage for music performances and entertainment scheduled throughout the weekend.

The festival this year includes The Barnes Road Beer Tent & Garden, live music by Chasin Mason, Lunch Money Bullies, Junes Got Cash and Critter Hill. A giant outdoor movie screen (Saturday night) with Disney’s animated “Moana.” People should bring their own lawn chair or blanket.

Balloonfest also features food vendors, a Business Vendor Village and a Craft Market that includes a tent where children can color their own T-shirt.

Festival hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday for the Women’s Competition, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday. Beer garden hours are 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. There is no admission fee.

For more information, call the Waterford Area Chamber of Commerce at 262-534-5911 or go to www.waterford-wi.org/waterford_balloon_fest.html.

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