PLAINVILLE — Dozens of hot air balloons hovered over Norton Park Saturday morning as calm, swirling winds made for some of the best flying conditions ever at the annual Plainville Fire Company’s Hot Air Balloon Festival.
“I’ve been doing this 20 years and I’m still like a kid when the balloons are getting up,” said Lisa Huck, a pilot who filled in as a crew member in one of the approximately 25 balloons at the park.
Her balloon was able to catch the swirling winds and float around the park.
“There’s something magical for people about balloons,” Huck said. “People like them, they’re bright and colorful.”
“This morning was exceptional,” said Santo Galatioto, a pilot from Orange who has brought his balloon to the festival for decades. “The winds were gentle, so the people at the festival could see the balloons for a lot longer.”
With the winds so calm Saturday morning, Galatioto was able to fly so low and slow one of his granddaughters could pick the leaves off treetops as they passed by.
With vibrant colors, sizes and artwork like giraffes and safari scenes glowing in the day’s first rays of light, even those who don’t go into the air got to enjoy a surreal sight. Plainville Fire Company Captain Kurt Plourde said spectators can talk with the pilot as they set up and watch them take off.
“It’s great to get up close to those balloons,” he said, “seeing how it’s set up, seeing how it goes up.”
“My daughter was amazed by the size of them,” said Janet Sirois, of Coventry. “I think the kids are amazed by how they get up there.
“We’ve never seen them up close…we wanted the kids to experience that,” she added.
Having proposed to his wife in a balloon years ago, Plourde said it should be on the top of people’s bucket lists.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s so peaceful and quiet; it’s like floating on air,” he said.
As much as all the firefighters enjoy putting on the show, it is a lot of work. Plourde said he expects they’ll start planning the 35th festival in a few months.
“We’re happy to be able to give back, because the services these guys provide are invaluable,” Galatioto said. “We fly in this area often and it’s nice knowing they’re there to help.”
“It’s beautiful, it’s really serene,” said Colleen Nightingale, of Glastonbury, who rode in a balloon two years ago during her engagement. “It’s very calming. You think it would be loud up there, but it’s not.”