Wheels Flying Wheels at the Balloon Festival in Warren County, NJ
It was 12 years ago when the first hot air balloon festival took place at the Warren County Farmers’ Fair. A sapling when compared to an agricultural fair that is celebrating its 75th official year. As the number one county in New Jersey for Farmland Preservation in 2008, it is only natural the farmers of Warren County are focused on growing thing out here.
What started with between 15-20 balloons for 4 nights of the Fair has more than doubled in number of pilots attending and this year will run 8 days.
It was 6 years ago that the balloon festival coordinators Balloonatics & Aeronuts decided to bring back a uniquely crazy race from the days at Bloomsbury, known as the Bicycle Balloon Race.? The plans came together one morning when Balloonatics flew a passenger and friend that were both cyclists. During the traditional champagne brunch the Bicycle Balloon Race came up and there began the planning.
The race would benefit a charity. Pilots would donate the ride and the bikers would pay a registration fee. Trying to identify the beneficiaries was difficult with so many good causes. It was driving by a sign for the ADM Foundation Benefit Ride for a local family that inspired the pick.
This year at the Fair marks the 6th annual Bicycle Balloon Race, where daring bikers strap lightweight but rather costly bikes to the outside of a balloon basket and hitch a ride inside the basket. Once past a line delineated on the map, the pilot can land and drop off the biker who, with his set of wheels, races back to the Fair.
As if this race was not amazing enough by combining two unlikely modes of transportation, enter Michael Glen. Those in the ballooning community may know him as the ‘rolling pilot’. Michael has been around hot air ballooning all his life, as his father has been a pilot before Michael was even born. It seemed only natural that Michael would also become a balloon pilot. However who could know that at the age of 31 Michael would be the first and only paraplegic hot air balloon pilot in the world.
Born in Roswell, New Mexico, famous for its unidentified flying objects, Michael looks forward to carrying a set of wheels over beautiful Warren County, New Jersey as he is sporting his own set of wheels on board. Michael’s story is one of inspiration and we welcome him and his father to the Balloon Festival at the Warren County Farmers’ Fair. To learn more about Michael’s story visit his website at www.rollingpilot.com.
Special thanks to co-chairs of the Bicycle Balloon Race, Lani Diemicke and John Quirke for helping to coordinate the event the past several years. The race is a work in progress and each year introduces a new twist. The competition is serious and debates sometimes ensue. But at the end of the day all involved are in agreement, it’s one of their favorite fundraising biking events and they look forward to it each year.
Join us on Wednesday night, August 1, at the Fair for the Bicycle Balloon Race, with a raindate of Thursday, August 2. For a complete schedule of events visit www.warrencountyfarmersfair.org or www.balloonfestnj.com.