PLAINVILLE — Balloons took flight in Norton Park at 6 a.m. on Saturday for the 35th annual Plainville Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The festival, which runs all weekend, kicked off on Friday with a fireworks show. According to Jim Lenois, Balloon Festival chairman, the fire company is expecting about 40,000 people will attend this weekend.
“People have a fascination with hot air balloons. Kids love them. Moms and dads love them,” Lenois said. “We wanted a fun thing to do. This started out as a little carnival type festival where you’d probably get 2,000 people in there.”
Stephen Fisher, a resident of Enfield, said he “loved seeing the balloons.”
The festival is the fire company’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The fire company hosts 150 vendors, according to Lenois, and includes everything from commercial vendors, to food and crafts. Lenois said that they will start planning for next year’s festival in September or October.
Though he doesn’t like to share how much money is raised every year, Lenois said that “about 60 percent of the money we raise goes back out to the community.”
“We give $7,000-$8,000 a year away in scholarships. We sponsor just about every youth sports team in town, we sponsor the high school sports teams. We make donations to the food pantry,” he said. “We spread the benevolence around because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
According to Kathy Pugliese, a Plainville resident, the festival is a “great event to be at.”
“I like talking to people,” she said. “It also gives us a chance to support our firefighters.”
Deb Hardy, a Plainville resident, said that she appreciates the festival for being “family oriented.”
With over 100 vendors, hot air balloons, a car show, live music and the festival taking place in the center of Norton Park, there is certainly something for everyone.
“To see people come in and enjoy themselves is my favorite part,” said Lenois. “Seeing the families come in...cause we try to have something for everybody. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
Lenois also took the time to thank the town of Plainville and festival goers for their support.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. But we receive tremendous support from the town,” he said. “We don’t ask for help hardly at all, but when we do people seem to want to help us because that’s what we do for a living. That’s the pleasure of doing all this, giving a little bit back.”