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Balloon Festival a breath of Fresh Air

The Adirondack Balloon Festival is the oldest and largest balloon festival on the East Coast and attracts participants from all around the world. This year the event celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Adirondack Balloon Festival is the oldest and largest balloon festival on the East Coast and attracts participants from all around the world. This year the event celebrates its 40th anniversary. Janet Loughrey

When he was very young, Mark Donahue’s parents kept scrapbooks of possible interests for each of their children. Space exploration. Rockets. Mark’s scrapbook began with hot-air balloons. He’s been to the Adirondack Balloon Festival every year since it began and has been captivated with balloons ever since he can remember. At every festival, for 40 years – his scrapbook still filling up with flights.

IF YOU GO

What: The 40th annual Adirondack Balloon Festival

Where: Locations around Glens Falls and Queensbury

When: Sept. 20-23

How much: Free

Today Mark is chairman of the board of directors of the festival. He was asked to join the board 14 years ago.

“Last year I was appointed president and lead organizer,” he said. “I love doing it, but sadly, I am now too busy to fly in the event!”

“I took my first flight at the age of 10,” said Mark. “And I started to fly before I could drive a car. Two weeks after graduating from college, my family helped me purchase my first balloon, which I still have today. We named it Family Affair.” These days Mark flies as much as he can – as many weekends as possible from April until snowfall.

Of course, the Adirondack Balloon Festival is all about the balloons – and this festival is a bigger deal than you might imagine. Over the years, the festival has drawn international exposure and created relationships with cities like Saga, Japan, and Gatineau, Quebec. Pilots come each year from all over the world to participate in what has been named one of the Top 100 events in North America. The festival has received accolades from the Weather Channel and the Food Network, and is bigger than ever for its 40th anniversary.

It’s also New York’s largest hot-air balloon festival, and the oldest and largest balloon event on the East Coast. Set against the backdrop of the striking Adirondack Mountains, this year’s festival will feature 100 balloons – the most it’s ever had – some in unique shapes, including a birthday cake balloon as first in flight, celebratory banner in tow.

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