How would you like to see hot air balloons of various designs and colors take flight in Metro Detroit? The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest (June 28-30) is your chance to do just that as hot air balloon pilots will be competing to be named the best pilot around.
“The Balloonfest has really evolved through its 35-year history and we’re looking forward to the celebration this year,” said Michigan Challenge director Michelle Tokan.
The event originated with former competition director Dick Rudlaff when he convened with the former Howell Area Chamber of Commerce president and a few pilots to discuss the merits of a hot air balloon event in Howell. The meeting took place in a local diner and before their first meeting concluded, a fellow Howell resident and eavesdropper chimed in to tell Rudlaff and his team that they were definitely on to something.
Since then, the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest has been producing a hot air balloon competition and family-friendly event for 35 years. This weekend-long event at Howell High School will see numerous balloon launches.
The actual competition portion of the event will take place in the morning hours (weather permitting) of Saturday and Sunday. Pilots will launch from an area outside of the High School and be tasked with dropping a marker of some kind on a predetermined target. The closer a marker is dropped to the center of said target, the better a pilot’s score will be.
“You’ll find probably 50% or more of our pilots are at the event and enjoy the competitiveness and are trying to drop their markers as close to the center of that target as possible. Some of the others aren’t as interested in that,” said Tokan. “They just love the sport of hot air ballooning and flying their balloon.”
On Saturday evening, pilots will gather for the Balloon Glow, where they will ignite their balloon burners to illuminate their balloons while remaining grounded, lighting up the night.
“The glow is just spectacular, especially when darkness falls,” Tokan said. “A lot of people say that’s their favorite part of the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest.”
In addition to the spectacle of hot air balloons, there will also be a carnival, musical performances, professional kite flyers and more. The carnival includes rides, games and food. New this year will be a contribution from Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, a children’s science museum, giving the kids the opportunity to learn while they play.
Entry to this year’s festivities will cost $5 per person per day while parking will be free.