Balloon-Festival NJ – Behind the fence with VIP-status
Hey everybody! Today I want to write about our experience of the Balloon-Festival in NJ with VIP-status. A few weeks back my Facebook-feed showed me advertisement for the NJ Balloon-Festival, an annual event at Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ (here is the link to the 2015 Balloon-Festival, the 33rd of its kind).
I remember that I was there either during my AuPair-year or shortly thereafter, I will look through my paper-pictures 😉 and it was a cool experience of hot air balloons and open-air music. A good previous experience and our friends who wanted to go, too, made us decide we want to go, too. Then Facebook showed me an add from Unique Photo, a local and online retailer of cameras and accessories but also a provider of photo courses (link) – and they had a special VIP-course for the balloon-festival!
Here is what the class stated (link):
Festival of Ballooning Workshop with Behind the Scenes Press Pass
- Skill Level: Everyone
Join Michael Downey for a photo workshop featuring the annual QuickChek NJ Festival of Ballooning, the most photographed event on the East Coast! Don’t miss out on capturing the breathtaking visuals of hot air balloons from around the world!
General Registration includes:
– (1) Balloon Festival admission ticket for Friday (6:30pm Launch), Saturday (6:30am Launch), or Sunday (6:30am Launch)
– (1) Special “Behind the Scenes” field access press pass for the selected day’s launch.
You may arrive and leave the Balloon Festival at any time on the day that you choose. Please be sure to get to the Launch Area about 45 minutes before the launch time.
Parking is not included. Michael Downey will be at the launch areas during the launch times.
BALLOON-FESTIVAL (Your Choice): Friday, July 24th – Saturday, July 25th – Sunday, July 26th
Enjoy the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning at Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey!
You’ll receive “Behind the Scenes” press pass access at the launch area, which allows you to get closer to the balloons as they’re inflating and being set up for launch!For those attending the festival on Friday, you will receive special “Behind the Scenes” access to photograph the Friday evening launch (6:30pm). Please plan to arrive at the launch area by 5:45PM.
For those attending the festival on Saturday, you will receive special “Behind the Scenes” access to photograph the Saturday morning launch (6:30am). Please plan to arrive at the launch area by 5:45AM.For those attending the festival on Sunday, you will receive special “Behind the Scenes” access to photograph the Sunday morning launch (6:30am). Please plan to arrive at the launch area by 5:45AM.
The introductory class for the Balloon-Festival
The class for preparing for the Balloon-Festival took place at Unique Photo SuperStore
(123 US Highway 46 West, Fairfield, NJ 07004) – it’s not only a store but offers two classrooms. We got there and received our “goodie-bags” filled with the driving instructions, entrance ticket (value of $20-$35, depending when you would have booked), the VIP-behind the Fence badge, and a blue Unique Photo t-shirt so we could recognize each other. The course was about an hour and a half and Michael Downey, the teacher, explained to us what camera-settings we should use and how the balloon-festival activities will proceed. Important take-aways:
(1) Prepare and bring your camera – not matter what camera you have, there will be some great pictures there!
(2) If you want to you can rent a camera or a different lense from Unique Photo – their websites lists prices – we decided that our iPhone 5, a GoPro, and our Canon PowerShot SX40 HS were enough :). I did bring a selfie-stick and a tripod but used neither. Take as many batteries that you can though – there is no way to charge them there!
(3) Traffic is a nightmare – be there early!!!
Tips for the Balloon-Festival
- If you can arrive as early as possible – traffic is a nightmare! In the afternoon, the closest parking-lot is often filled and you will be diverted by police to either the Raritan Valley Community College parking-lots or the grass parking-lots.
- The morning launch was clear and the colors were amazing. The evening launch was nice but it was a bit more hazy and the colors were not as intense. Michael said that morning launches happen most often while he experienced several evening launches delayed or cancelled. You may want to plan for this depending on the weather forecast.
- This year they offered a shuttle between the different parking-lots and the Balloon-Festival grounds. BUT they can get crowded – so plan ahead and don’t try to get there the last minute. When you leave at night you may wait in line for quite a while to take a bus back… we actually were faster in walking to the grass parking-lot but there was a line for the College-buses from one end of the runway to the other…
- You are not allowed to bring food or drinks inside but you can buy a lot of different foods and drinks inside and during the morning/afternoon they also have some freebies like drink-tastings or snack-packages, vendors will probably vary each year.
- Have some drink and food in the car (possibly in a cooler) – you can leave and re-enter the festival with a re-entry-stamp. Plus when you leave you may be hungry and it may take a while to get out…
- Getting out of the parking-lots is not an easy task either. Police will try to support the emptying-process but it took almost an hour for ours to empty (at around 11:15 PM).