It seems like just yesterday that my colleague Ned Campbell and I were carried away by Piko, a happy-faced hot air balloon that traveled to Jamesville from Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, near Montreal, to be at the fest. But alas, it's been 12 months already, and another beautifully-coordinated event, which again hosted Piko, has come and gone.
Last weekend, passengers who booked flights were lucky to get off the ground on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were a different story. Inclement weather dampered the chance for peaceful rides above Central New York, which is unfortunate since so many people - spectators, passengers and pilots - look forward to this yearly event.
My fiance Tim and I met with the Canadian team we befriended last year during my first ride in a wicker basket. Gosh, I remember being so nervous at first. I couldn't have asked for a better pilot, though. Normand, who speaks French, understood my initial fears and listened patiently to my repeated requests to "fly low" until I myself was on a "balloon high." Isabelle Lajoie, who flew with Ned and me, was also a great comfort. The entire team helped us feel safe, at ease and welcome to visit their festival that occurs for nine days in August.
Canada's biggest international balloon festival takes place in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, just 20 minutes from Montreal. From Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, you can feast your eyes on more than 120 hot air balloons, which include 15 special shapes (like Piko) and three night glows - all weather-permitting, of course. An expansive inflatable theme park is the perfect place to bring the family, as well, which is located on the festival grounds. And like the Jamesville Balloon Fest, the International de Montgolfieres de Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu books big names for nightly entertainment. This year, musical artists include Ke$ha, Pitbull, Sean Paul and Flo Rida.