MIDLAND (WJRT) (09/14/17)--It's a larger than life experience that's full of hot air. The Midland Balloon Fest is ready fly high for the 27th year.
"We have over 30 balloons coming to the fairgrounds this weekend. We're going to have canine units, helicopters, a cold-air inflated, hot air balloon for kids to walk around in and play in. It's going to be a great time," said festival marketing director Danielle King.
Balloons are expected to be visible for more than 30 miles away. Admission is free, with donations being accepted for area charities.
"We have a huge food drive. We'll have trailers out there. We're hoping that everyone can bring non-perishable food items for the local food banks of Midland County to really help out people in need," said King.
Pilots are coming to Midland from all over the Midwest, chasing after $10,000 thousand dollars in prize money.
"It goes toward our national rankings with the Balloon Federation of America. We're competing for our national rankings to go to the national championship," said Steve King, a professional balloon pilot.
He says the Great Lakes Bay region has become a favorite stop for many competitors.
"When its real clear, you can the lakes off in the distance. You can actually see all the way to the whole Saginaw bay, you can start to see the outline of the whole thumb and everything. It's beautiful flying here in Midland."
Since first launching in 1990, the Midland Balloon Fest has grown into one of largest of it's kind in the state.
"Oh, it's huge. With a good weather weekend, I would expect well over 20,000 people out there this weekend," said Steve King.
As for the balloons, they aren't cheap. In fact, each one, with their baskets and burners, runs in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $50,000 thousand dollars.
"This is brand new balloon with only about 10 hours on hit. It's 65,000 cubic feet of air pulled in, built in Dexter, Michigan, Ann Arbor, the largest manufacturer in the United States," said Midland Balloon Fest Executive Director Scott Strouse.
The Midland Balloon Festival runs through Sunday. Click on the related links section for a schedule of events.