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Previously from Letchworth Balloon Rallies: Balloon Festivals, ... Third Time was The Charm, 13th Annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, 13th Annual Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, Letchworth State Park 2014, 14th Annual Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, Letchworth State Park 2015, 15th Annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, 16th Annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, 2017, 17th Annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Festival, 2018
Alright, another year under our belts and another tough year for the balloonists. While the weather seemed great to the general public it did not meet the safety standards for ballooning. As a result, there was only one successful launch during the 17th annual Red, White, and Blue Hot Air Balloon Festival in Letchworth State Park. Winds and storms in the area forced cancellations of the other 5 scheduled launches.
Knowing the uncertainty very well from the previous years we did not want to miss out and headed for Letchworth right on Friday night, also hoping for smaller crowds. Saturday and Sunday nights are pretty packed and the crowds seem to be growing every year. It was a great evening by the gorge but the launch had to be cancelled due to high winds in higher altitudes.
Next came another annual tradition and that was setting the alarm for 3:50 a.m. to make it to the gorge early enough to enjoy the start of a new day. And we sure made it!
Letchworth Sunrise Wonder. Letchworth State Park, New York
Even here the times they are a changin', though. I have been visiting this spot for sunrises for many years mostly having it to myself. So for the mornings of the balloon festivals I started taking my family here and enjoying the sunrise just with them. It made for a nice special moment and it really was the only opportunity for me to convince them all to get up that early and be somewhere for a sunrise with me.
The last few years though, the spot gets crowded by other photographers as excited about the beauty as us and it starts to remind me of the lines at some famous spots of some of the national parks. Is that the price of social media and the ever prevalent imagery from all of these beautiful spots? Will these places suffer as a result of their fame? I've just read an article about tourism becoming a problem in many areas of the world and this was kind of a showcase for me. Is humanity going to find a healthy balance of tourism providing funding for the areas without ruining them?
Then we heard the horn calling pilots to the pilot meeting. The sun cleared the horizon and the clouds and we were off to the Archery Field to get the verdict. While everything seemed promising to the laymen the decision was to cancel the launch. After a quick visit to the Middle Falls we headed back home to recharge for attempt #3 in the evening.
As expected, the area around Archery Field was packed. Saturday night, there was actually another reason to show up. In the afternoon, there was a skydiving show. We skipped that and arrived to see a beautiful balloon launch. And this time around, luck was on our side and I am sure all of the balloon crews were very happy too! It was a go!
I did not spend as much time in the launch area as in other years and headed across the road to find myself a different vantage point to get different photos than in the past. Enjoy the show!
Fred B Rabbit over Letchworth State Park, 17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018
Balloon Crowd at the Letchworth State Park Gorge, 17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018
Descending into the Gorge17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018 It's always impressive to watch the pilots' skills at this location. They have to launch from the Archery Field meadow, climb high enough to clear the tree line lining the road on both sides, let the wind take them over the Genesee River gorge, and then let the balloons dip into the gorge. It always happens so quickly! They go up, zoom, and they go down.
Some enjoy hovering in the gorge area, some go really low, sometimes even for a dip in the river then creating a waterfall as the bucket loaded with water empties during their ascend. Some years, the balloons remain fairly static in the gorge, other years breeze pushes them up or down the river.
Balloon Parade17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018 This year, wind was taking them all north-north-east for an unusual route. After dipping down by the Big Bend of the Genesee River they were blown north alongside the western side of the park, not across towards Nunda, NY as usual. The winds were also very calm and kept most of the balloons together for quite the parade upon one's exit from the park.
For us, the show never ends with the balloons leaving the park. We always go for a chase to see at least one of them land. Along the way, we have had a chance to meet some of the balloon crews and even help them put the balloons away. It's a great way to learn more about this hobby and better understand what is happening behind the scenes. This year, thanks to the balloons staying close together, it was easy to see many of them look for a suitable landing spot and land. However, many landed further away from public roads and we did not want to follow their chase vehicles to private property and thus did not have an opportunity to say hi to some of our favorite crews from the past. Hopefully next year!
Searching for a Landing Spot, 17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018
Aloft Horizons on Landing Approach, 17th Annual Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival 2018
Oh, and if you happen to know the team names associated with the various balloons I would love to hear from you. In the past, I attempted to create a balloon registry to properly tag my photographs but I never really pulled it off all the way.
Enjoy the beauty that surrounds you! (#etbtsy)
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