Vero Beach Balloon Festival features captive rides

Hot air balloons land on the Treasure Coast.

The Vero Beach Balloon Festival is scheduled for February 5-6 at the Indian River County Fairgrounds and Exhibit Center. Doors will open at 3 p.m. both days.

Between eight and 10 hot air balloons will float above the fairgrounds during the new event, said Jeremy Kwaterski, director of hot air balloon management.

The festival will feature tethered hot air balloon rides available for $25 per person, weather permitting, as well as a grand finale after 8 p.m. with a hot air balloon glow and laser show that incorporates music, crowd and coordinated burns.

There will be a children’s area with games, rides, trains, inflatables, rock walls and a zip line; a DJ and live music; craft and retail vendor kiosks; and festival-style food vendors.

General admission is $20 for adults, $8 for children, and free for ages 4 and under. Parking is $5. The children’s zone requires tickets ranging from $1 to $10.

Balloon inflation begins as soon as the wind speed is low enough to be safe. Listen to announcements during the event. The rain would stop the inflation of the balloon because the fabric absorbs water. If this happens, tickets would be good for another day or show.

Bring blankets, chairs and umbrellas. No coolers or alcohol are allowed. Pets are not recommended as hot air balloon burner noise can get loud and disturb dogs. Service dogs are allowed.

Kwaterski’s company has been hosting hot air balloon festivals since 2008, primarily in northwest Georgia. It was created to raise money for charity, but it has become both lucrative and charitable. It donates 10% of its income to the Special Olympics.

This year, his company will travel to more than 15 different locations, including St. Augustine; Aiken, South Carolina; Peoton, Ill.; and Dalton, Lawrenceville and Statesboro, all in Georgia.

The Vero Beach Balloon Festival takes place February 5-6 at the Indian River County Fairgrounds & Expo Center.  In this photo from Nov. 20, 2021, a tethered hot air balloon takes passengers for a ride in Cathedral City, California.

History of hot air balloons

The first hot air balloon, “Aerostat Reveillon,” was launched by scientist Pilatre De Rozier on September 19, 1783, with three passengers: a sheep, a duck and a rooster, according to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The balloon stayed in the air for 15 minutes before crashing to the ground.

About two months later, the first manned attempt was made by two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, on November 21, 1783, according to the local festival website. They launched the ball from the center of Paris and flew for 20 minutes.

In 1785, French balloonist Jean Pierre Blanchard and American co-pilot John Jefferies became the first to cross the English Channel. Blanchard then became the first to fly a hot air balloon in North America on January 7, 1793, according to the website.

Hot air ballooning lost popularity for about 150 years due to the advancement of lighter-than-air gas ballooning and the perceived danger of burning.

In the late 1950s, Ed Yost’s invention of relatively light burners powered by bottled propane allowed balloonists to warm the air inside balloons for longer flights, improving modern hot air balloons by semi-maneuverable aircraft.

Yost made the first modern hot air balloon flight on October 22, 1960 in Bruning, Nebraska, flying for one hour and 35 minutes.

Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon instead of a helium/gas filled balloon in 1987. They covered 2,900 miles in a record time of 33 hours. A year later, Lindstrand set the record for the highest solo flight in a hot air balloon: 65,000 feet.

Branson and Lindstrand teamed up again in 1991 and became the first to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon. They covered 6,700 miles from Japan to Canada in 47 hours, traveling at speeds of up to 245 miles per hour and breaking the world distance record.

The Vero Beach Balloon Festival takes place February 5-6 at the Indian River County Fairgrounds & Expo Center.  In this photo from Nov. 20, 2021, a hot air balloon strapped to festival-goers for rides is seen in Cathedral City, California.

Vero Beach Hot Air Balloon Festival

Laurie K. Blandford is an entertainment journalist and TCPalm columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Follow her on Twitter @TCPalmLaurie and [email protected]TCPalmLaurie. Email her at [email protected] Sign up for his What To Do in 772 weekly newsletter at