Hot air balloon festival takes flight

The 33rd annual celebration of old-school aviation takes place 45 minutes from Montreal, starting this weekend.

Stéphanie Lachance - Scène + Nuits Magiques

Canada’s largest hot air balloon festival returns to our region from Aug. 13 to 21, mounting a full-on music festival and some new activities alongside the main event: showcasing the majesty of this very old-school aviation technology.

Now in its 33rd year, the festival in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu — located less than an hour away from downtown Montreal — will feature 125 balloons and their pilots from all over the world. After sundown from Aug. 16-20, balloons will be lit up for a Night Glow presentation on the ground. There are 10 types of balloons on display this year, six of which are new additions to the festival.

Mylène Lorrain balloons

Other than watching, riding in and learning about the history of hot air balloon aviation, festival attendees can also enjoy a range of activities, such as (on Aug. 13 and 14) the Jackalope skateboard competition, featuring some of Canada’s top pro skateboarders showing off their tricks and even teaching fans some moves (skateboards and helmets will be provided). For kids and amusement park lovers, there will be bouncy castles, games and rides, though some of them — such as the ferris wheel  — will cost an additional fee on top of the festival entrance. There will also be nine food trucks on site, offering fare such as burgers, BBQ and burrito bowls.

The music festival portion of the balloon fest includes over 150 acts on three stages, including headliners Metric, OMI and Redfoo of LMFAO. ■

The complete program, directions, tickets ($57 for a nine-day passport, $30 or $25 for day tickets, less for youth aged 4 to 15) and balloon-flight reservations are available on the festival’s website.