Balloon crews fill a hot air balloon with cool air before take-off on Thursday morning at the Hoosick Central Elementary School. They were demonstrating
Balloon crews fill a hot air balloon with cool air before take-off on Thursday morning at the Hoosick Central Elementary School. They were demonstrating inflation as a kick off of the Cambridge Balloon Festival, which will be showcased this weekend at the Cambridge Central School. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/Photos.benningtonbanner.com)

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The 2014 Cambridge Valley Balloon Festival starts today, Friday, June 6, at 6 p.m. with the official opening ceremonies at Cambridge Central School, 24 Park St., accompanied with music by the Washington County Band.

The weekend's events are spread out around town, and draws people from all over upstate New York, New Jersey and New England. Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Pembroke said every hotel within 25 miles is booked. "We've tried to get people a couple of rooms in Bennington and they're booked. There are people staying in Hoosick falls, Cambridge and local campgrounds."

Pembroke said the festival attracts thousands every year, making it the largest event in the area, second only to the Washington County Fair. "It's great for the restaurants and the stores in town. The nice thing about it is with all of the events taking place at the school to the other end of town, there are a lot of things to do within walking distance," she said.

Every year, the festival is featured with a poster based on images by a local artists. In its 14th year, the festival is being marketed with T-shirts, mugs and pins featuring images from the festival painting by Lynn Benevento of Lake Luzerne. A covered bridge, church, historical house complete the painting with balloons being driven over a scenic landscape, which is monumental to the festival's location and history.

Founders of the Adirondack Balloon Festival, John Marsden and Walter Grishkot, came to the Chamber of Commerce in 2001 with the suggestion to start a balloon festival.


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Pembroke said the festival was an instant hit, and that the chamber has worked with local sponsors to bring hot air balloon pilots back every year.

This year, Balloonmeister Mark Donahue has attracted 10 hot air balloon pilots to the event, each with at least one balloon funded by a different title sponsor. Glens Falls National Bank, O'Hearn's Pharmacy, Paraco Gas Company and Country Gals Cafe are among the 10 balloon sponsors, each funding $1,000. There are additional event sponsors who donated up to $500 to the festival operations.

Balloon launches will take place at the school Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday mornings at 5:30 a.m.

Fireworks displays can be viewed from 8 to 10 p.m. at Cambridge Guest Home Park on Friday. The Cambridge Valley Lions Club will be hosting an antique car show at VARAK Park at the intersection of Main Street and Pearl Street starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The festival carnival will take place at the school from noon to 8 p.m.

Benevento's painting was donated to the chamber, 13 West Main St., which is being sold in a silent auction now through Sunday morning during the Pilot's Breakfast at 10 a.m. at Madd Hatter's Rooste, 59 South Park St.

Visit http://www.cambridgenychamber.com/ for a full schedule of events. Call the chamber at (518) 677-0887 to reserve tickets for events with limited capacity, or to ask for availability of flight rides.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg