Uplifting Grayslake fest features hot-air balloons

It rained when it was time for the balloons to take off at last year's Color Aloft Balloon Festival in Grayslake.
So the balloons got grounded. Still, about 4,000 people came to the festival to see the colorful 55-foot-wide, 70-foot-tall hot air balloons, Karen Christian Smith said.
"There's just something about seeing all those balloons up close. It's impressive," said Smith, executive director of the Grayslake Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.
At last year's event, people were able to get into the baskets to experience being in a balloon, although they didn't go up in the air, she said.
Still, she hopes the weather is better this year so people can watch the 10 balloons of varying colors lift to the sky and compete to see which operator can get closest to an object upon landing. After dark, they will return to Central Park and be illuminated, glowing brightly in the park.
The event begins at 4 p.m. with a 19th century baseball game sponsored by the Grayslake Historical Society and run by Grayslake Heritage Museum Center executive director Dave Oberg. A local high school band will perform and other activities for families are scheduled.
Participants should bring lawn chairs, blankets and food or beverages if they'd like, Smith said.
"It will be a picnic atmosphere with no food vendors," she said. "We also encourage people to go out to the local eateries afterward."
Wind Dancer Balloon Promotions, a family-run business out of Waukesha, Wis., will bring the balloons, launch them and then return them to Grayslake to illuminate them at night, Smith said. Participants will not be able to ride in the balloons, but they can get close to them and talk to the owners about what it takes to get them into the air. That's fine with Smith, who said she has a fear of heights. She does enjoy, however, standing close to the balloons and feeling the heat from the fire inside that fuels them.
Free parking is available at Grayslake Central High School, Grayslake Middle School, Grayslake Aquatic Center and Grayslake Library, all within walking distance from Central Park.
Sheryl DeVore is a freelance writer.
Color Aloft Balloon Festival
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Central Park, 250 Library Lane, Grayslake
Tickets: Free
Information: 847-223-6888; grayslakechamber.com/

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