Balloon Festival Soars Despite the Wind

Despite cool temperatures and blustery conditions at the 14th annual Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon, Wine and Music Festival, the event   attracted huge crowds to Long Branch throughout the weekend. Windy conditions prevented balloons from flying on Saturday, but calmer conditions allowed for a Sunday morning launch. Huge crowds and steady traffic proved that even with a limited number of   balloons, the three day festival, that included wine, music, food, and crafts has grown to represent a much more diverse experience.

Crowds enjoy live music on the lawn at Long Branch - Photo Mike Dowling

The grounds of Long Branch have recovered from the prolonged dry spell of the summer and returned to their lush glory to provide a wonderful setting for the festival. Music from bands like “Souled Out” and “Furnace Mountain” entertained crowds and provided a musical score for the entire festival to enjoy.

The ever expanding vendor areas offered many food selections that crowds enjoyed as they strolled through tents full of handmade garments, jewelry and art. Vendors like Susan Wolf of Gourds by Susan, worked during the festival demonstrating her gourd art for passers by. Other local favorites included Nall’s farm market who set up a tent that was surrounded by pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Their centerpiece pumpkin, “The Great Pumpkin,” was carved by Mary Ann Nalls.

Gourds by Susan - Photo Mike Dowling

Wine continued to provide a tremendous draw at the festival as crowds swarmed the tents of the wineries that participated in tastings and sold their products. Visitors who purchased a tasting glass and wristband could sample dozens of fine wines from local producers and many people purchased bottles to enjoy throughout the event.

Plans for next year are already in the works and event officials have announced that the date for next years festival will be moved back several weeks to September 23-25, 2011. This may provide a better chance for favorable balloon flying weather.

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