Park gears up for Susquehanna Balloon Festival

This weekend, brightly colored hot air balloons are scheduled to fill Neahwa Park in Oneonta for the ninth annual Susquehanna Balloon Festival.

On the ground there will be theatrical and musical entertainment, more than 30 vendors, a car show and bounce houses. New to the festival this year is the Phoenix 5K Color Dash.

Rachel Lutz Jessup, treasurer of Destination Oneonta, which is in charge of overseeing the festival, said DO’s goal is to expand the event, making it a weekend destination.

“For the first couple of years there was nothing in the park other than the balloons. What we tried to do this year is to make it more of a festival,” Jessup said. “I’m really excited because it’s gotten bigger and there’s more things for people to come and do.”

This is Destination Oneonta’s second year organizing the event in coordination with Mike Ranieri of Balloon NY, and the event’s sponsors The LEAF Council, First Night Oneonta and Five Star Subaru, among others. Thanks to them, Jessup noted, the event is free and open to the public.

Weather permitting, there are four scheduled balloon launches. One at 6 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. According to Ranieri, there is already a waitlist but those interested in a balloon ride should visit balloonny.com to contact him.

The main event remains the Spectacular Balloon Glow at dusk Saturday, where the 10 balloons are tethered to the ground and float above the park.

“They glow like huge Chinese lanterns, and it goes on for quite awhile, it’s really beautiful,” Katrina Van Zandt, membership coordinator for DO, said.

The vendors, a mix of artisans, food and direct sales services, will be on site from 5-9 p.m. Friday and 2-9 p.m. Saturday.

Festivities start Friday at 5 p.m. with a set from Three Days Gone, at 7 p.m. fitness instructors from ZOE Fitness will be hosting a workout free and open to the public. “We recommend everyone come dressed in clothes they can move in,” Zoe Curtis, owner of ZOE Fitness, said, “If you have a yoga mat, bring it.” Eclectic cover band The Holy Thunderbirds comes on at 7:30 p.m. to close the evening.

The inaugural 5K Color Dash, which will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, is hosted by Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties Inc. and The Phoenix Athletic Club, it’s $ 25 to register and all proceeds go to their efforts reducing the stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse.

DJ Justino will be spinning tracks from the start of the run until 1:30 p.m. when the live acts pick up again from 2-9 p.m. starting with Uncle John and the Turtle. Saturday performances will include local bands, a comedian and Catskill Puppet Theater.

Tom & Doug’s Cruise-In classic car show will start at 2 p.m. in the green space across from Damaschke Field.

“It took a whole team to make it work, our amazing volunteers and generous sponsors,” Jessup said. “I hope we have a big turn out and I hope people are down there having a really good time.”

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit destinationoneonta.com

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or wbashaw@thedailystar.com

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