Susquehanna Balloon Festival returns this weekend

August 23—After a two-year hiatus, the Susquehanna Balloon Festival returns to Oneonta for its 12th year at Neahwa Park on August 26.

Hosted by Destination Oneonta and sponsored by the City of Oneonta, the hot air balloon festival will once again welcome returning pilots, vendors and food trucks.

This year the festival encourages families to visit for a day of balloons, bouncy castles, live music and a new cornhole tournament added this year according to David Kropp, President of Destination Oneonta.

Mike Ranieri, pilot and one of the organizers of the Susquehanna Balloon Festival will plan rides and provide balloons through Balloon NY, Kropp said.

“We have seven pilots and they come from as far away as Pennsylvania to fly. I fly mostly in the Hudson Valley, but there are a lot of local pilots here and it’s a great reunion for all of us,” Ranieri said.

All pilots are required to undergo Federal Aviation Administration training and the balloons are inspected once a year, according to Ranieri.

The balloon festival also offers rides for $300 per person at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings, Kropp said.

“Balloons are very weather-related,” Ranieri said. “Oneonta is difficult because of the mountains and the wind. We have to take off at certain times because of the wind levels in the morning and evening.”

The festival will also feature a “Dusk Balloons” event where balloons are anchored and lit, causing them to glow at night.

Local bands Sons of Eastwood, Rickety Fence and Redshift will perform throughout the weekend.

“Sponsorships make the event accessible to everyone and allow us to have a free family festival. The event started 12 years ago for Oneonta’s centennial and it was so well received that they wanted the continue every year,” Ranieri said.

“It’s a fun and free family event, so we encourage everyone to come and enjoy great food, vendors and live music,” Kropp said.

Alexis Ochi, editor, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7213.