Soaring through the sky, the morning mist below me blankets the earth. The cold breeze lashes my face as a stream of warm air pours down on me from above. My heart pounds with a rush of joy and adrenaline. These are the feelings and sights you get when you are placed high above the ground. If you are wondering what I am describing, it was my early-morning flight at the annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal. This year I was given the chance to experience something heavenly – a trip in a hot-air balloon named Infinity.
This event is North America’s preeminent hot-air balloon festival and Canada’s greatest family event. This year the fest celebrated its 28th anniversary and etches its mark on the map as an attraction hub for the years to come.
Every August, the sky above Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu comes to life as 125 hot-air balloons take flight in the early hours of the morning. Early-bird risers can witness the spectacular sight of balloons flying in every direction.
In the afternoon, these hot-air balloons are inflated at the festival grounds in preparation for an evening flight, if the weather conditions permit.
Residents and bystanders gather on the streets that slowly turn into massive crowds as they watch the balloons float seamlessly across the sky with their vibrant, rainbow colours and shapes. As sunset arrives balloons land on farmland where the owners welcome them. In return for allowing them to land on their property, the pilots offer the owners a bottle of champagne and gas coupons.
During the festival, three nocturnal events took place – two featured special-shaped balloons and one was for regular balloons. The night was illuminated with the fiery glow of the hot-air balloons and with a whistle blow all of the balloons lit up.
Besides the ballooning, the festival offers other attractions and activities. This includes a series of concerts that are held every night for the duration of the festival featuring big-name entertainers. This year’s participants were LMFAO, the LA-based dance-rap sensation with their hit song “Party Rock Anthem”, who kicked off the festivities with a bang.
Other performers on the bill included Maxime Landry, Sean Paul, Eric Lapointe, Flo Rida and Pitbull. I thoroughly enjoyed the venues and made sure not to miss any of the shows as the vibe was just right.
Outside food courts were conveniently placed and served food from all corners of the globe, making this a truly international affair.
The balloon festival is an event that I will keep going to in the years to come and hope many others will attend the wonders of this inflatable spectacle. This most memorable impression I experienced was being able to grasp what man has always wanted to do – fly high in the sky. This life-changing encounter is certainly something I will never forget.