Failure to Launch: NJ Quick Chek Balloon Festival

It was a beautiful day to drive up to Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ yesterday…three women of a certain age worried about allergies and their knees but determined to finally see–after years of wanting to go but never going–the Quick Chek Balloon Festival. Surviving the traffic and getting there in time to stand on line for 45 minutes for bad festival food, we found our place, set up a tripod (one of us is a real photographer with a fancy camera, but it’s not me) and waited for the wondrous ascension of hot-air balloons of all colors and shapes at dusk.

Only that didn’t happen. Because it got windy; not really windy, but windy enough. And, according to the guy who spoke non-stop over the loudspeaker, there are lots and lots of rules and regulations preventing anything–even a hot-air balloon–from going up in these conditions.

Damn. We’d paid $30 plus parking plus overpriced food for the privilege to what? Stand around waiting for something that didn’t happen. Well, at least REO Speedwagon was starting their concert…

Yeah. That was another $55, though we didn’t know that as they were advertised as being part of the festival without mention of having to buy another ticket. We’d lugged chairs around all afternoon because we’d heard we could sit “outside” the actual viewing area and still see. Well, with all the people who’d always brought chairs and blankets creating a wall we could not hope to get through, we were shit outta luck. Oh, I managed a little finagling to get a picture but, in the end, we just walked to our car to the sounds of Kevin Cronin…”take it on the run, baby…”

Then it took us four days to get out of the parking lot.

This had to be the worst-organized, disappointing festival I’ve ever been to. They didn’t even offer us much for our troubles: if you stood in another line to have your ticket “stamped” you could get back in today before 10 am. for their morning launch. Gee. What sports! They could’ve let us ALL see the concert by removing the multitude of barriers…and moving the zillion security guards stopping us from even SEEING the band to the parking lot to control the gridlock. But no, nobody thought of that.

It was all about the money, it seems. Thank goodness a few brave drivers fired up their balloons at least a little so we could see them and snap a few pics. My favorite, of course, was the Wicked balloon. Too bad nobody was in there singing. Check out the pics here:


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