8 things to enjoy at The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival

Thousands of spectators are expected to turn out for The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park/Middletown Regional Airport on July 19-20.

“The biggest new feature this year is going to be the drone show, and guests have to be inside the park to see the drones,” said Kathy Stites, event manager for The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival. “There will be over 200 drones that will be up in the air over Smith Park.”

Balloon enthusiasts will enjoy evening balloon glows, fireworks and a drone show, skydiving demonstrations, and a car show. Guests can also visit more than 55 food, craft and other vendors. Two tethered balloon rides will return this year, at an additional cost. Plus, there will be activities for children in the Kid’s Zone.

Sponsored by Selection.com and Start Skydiving, the annual festival has grown into one of the area’s largest signature summer events. More than 300 volunteers come together to support the festivities. For a complete schedule of events and activities, visit the festival website at www.ohiochallenge.com, or check out The Ohio Challenge on Facebook.

Here are eight things you won’t want to miss at The Ohio Challenge this year:

Nightly balloon glows – Balloon glows are spectacular. This year, there will be nearly 30 balloons on display with three special-shaped balloons, the Scarecrow, Little D (a Dracula-shaped balloon,) and Ellie the Elephant. Balloon glows will take place on Friday and Saturday nights at dusk (starting around 9:15 p.m.) The balloon glows will be followed by Pyrotechnics Jump from the skydivers and fireworks/drone show.

Skydiving – An anticipated event each year, skydivers from Team Fastrax will do demonstrations throughout the event. They will return both nights for a Team Fastrax Flag Jump and a Pyrotechnic Skydiving Display. (The skydivers will jump three times each night and return right before the fireworks for the Pyrotechnics Jump.) The 17′ x 10′ Jumbotron Video board will return this year and feature interviews, live events and highlights from the festival. Festival skydiving content will also be streamed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Fireworks and Cohen Drone Show – On both Friday and Saturday nights, there will be fireworks and a 200-drone show beginning at dusk (around 10:15 p.m.,) following the nightly balloon glows. Saturday’s extravaganza is expected to have even more fireworks on display.

Pilot Trading Cards – This year’s Ohio Challenge will continue a tradition that started last year. The balloon pilots will distribute trading/baseball-style cards to attendees (They are available only while supplies last.)

Car show – The Ohio Valley Cruisers will host a car show from 4-8 p.m. July 20. See old and new generation cars at The Ohio Challenge’s Car Show. The cost to register a car is $15 on site. Awards will be presented. Registration for the car show will begin at 2 p.m.

Tethered balloon rides – The tethered balloon rides are so popular that two tethered balloons will be available again this year. Rides will cost $20 per person. Wind and weather permitting. (Plane flights will also be available during the festival.) Tethered rides will begin at 7 p.m.

Pilot/Balloon Competition – Spectators can watch balloon flights into and out of Smith Park on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. each day. There’s no cost for spectators.

Festival Fun – Beyond the balloons, there will be plenty of family fun to enjoy, including rides from Murray Brothers Inc. The Kid’s Zone will return this year from 5:15-10:30 p.m. July 19 and 4:30-10:30 p.m. July 20 with face-painting and other free children’s activities. About 55 vendors will participate with a variety of food offerings as well as arts and crafts vendors.

How to go

What: The Ohio Challenge

When: July 19-20. Hours are 5-10:30 p.m. July 19 and 4-10:30 p.m. July 20

Where: Smith Park/Middletown Regional Airport, 2301 Wedekind Drive, Middletown.

Admission: Walk-in admission is $10 per person, ages 13 and up (children ages 12 and under are free). $20 per vehicle, which includes parking, festival admission and a free shuttle service (good for everyone in the car.). No overnight RV parking, and no personal tents/canopies allowed. Vehicles should enter via Middletown Regional Airport entrance. (Shuttle service will not be available inside Smith Park.) Handicap parking is available for $20 with a valid permit and includes admission.

More information: ohiochallenge.com or follow the Ohio Challenge on Facebook. All balloon activity is wind and weather permitting. Guests can bring blankets and chairs. No outside alcohol permitted.

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