Giant N.J. hot air balloon festival will happen this year

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An at-risk summer staple in New Jersey will return this year.

The group behind the annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning posted a notice on its website Wednesday afternoon announcing that it secured a new title sponsor and will take place from July 24 to 26 at the Solberg Airport in Readington Township. It will mark the 38th year of the ballooning event.

The announcement was made following over a week of negotiations with “a major New Jersey entity,” the identity of which will be revealed at a press event to be held next week at a yet to be disclosed location.

“You’ll hear all about the process, and about some of the cool and unique things we’re doing to refresh and re-energize the festival,” Howard Freeman, executive producer of the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, said.

The 2020 festival has been at risk of being canceled since early October of last year, when QuickChek announced that after 26 years it will no longer serve as the event’s title sponsor.

While declining to share specific details about the new sponsor, Freeman said that the company is “something everybody will be proud of, and that we’re really excited about.”

Freeman also expressed his gratitude for “the outpouring of love” he and other festival organizers have received over the last several months from past attendees and supporters of the event.

“You do something for 27 years, and it’s easy to be inside it and not realize the magnitude of it. But the amount of people that have reached out to us either with interest in the festival, or showing me pictures of them when they were a year old at the festival, and recently of them taking their kids to the festival … it’s just heartwarming how many people have a really deep appreciation and love for and memories at the festival,” Freeman said.

“So the fact that we’re now able to continue as a result of this company stepping up is something we feel really good about,” he added.

Billed as the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, last year’s event employed more than 2,500 people and was attended by a record crowd of roughly 169,500 to pump approximately $52.4 million into the state’s economy, according to festival organizers.

Over 100 hot air balloons took to the skies throughout the three-day festival, which featured Abba the Concert, The Band Perry and The Beach Boys as its three headliners.

Caroline Fassett can be reached at cfassett@njadvancemedia.com.

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