6 things you won’t want to miss at The Ohio Challenge hot air balloon event this year

Festival to have skydivers, fireworks and more.

Thousands of spectators will return to Middletown on Friday and Saturday for The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park and the Middletown Regional Airport.

“Everybody enjoys seeing the balloons. When community members come out, they really appreciate the opportunity to spend time with their family and friends. It’s a good time,” said Kathy Stites, event manager, The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Activities include evening balloon glows, fireworks, skydiving demonstrations, and a car show on Saturday. Visitors to the event may check out 30-40 food and craft vendors. Tethered balloon rides are back this year (at an additional cost). There will be rides and activities for children in a kid’s area.

Plus, there will be a dunking booth that will benefit Eclipse Roque Squadron (a girls soccer team).

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Can’t go? The Ohio Challenge is viewable online.

“We will be doing livestreaming from our Facebook page this year. So, we will be out talking to people, capturing all the different festivities, and sharing all the excitement,” Stites said.

There will be livestreaming from the skydiving events, which will be shown on a 12-ft. x 17-ft., large screen, and there will be interviews taking place, she said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Sponsored by Selection.com, this is the 19th year for the annual festival, which has grown into one of the area’s largest, signature summer events. More than 300 volunteers come together to support the festivities. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact The Ohio Challenge via the festival website at www.ohiochallenge.com or email contact@ohiochallenge.com. In the past, the event has drawn up to 50,000 spectators from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and beyond.

Here are six things you won’t want to miss at The Ohio Challenge this year:

Night balloon glows

Balloon glows are spectacular at night. This year, there will be more than 23 balloons on display including four special-shaped balloons. Balloon glows will take place on Friday and Saturday nights at dusk (starting around 8:30 p.m. each night.) This year’s featured special-shaped balloons will include Flying Saucer, Billy the Kid, Sheriff Armadillo and Puddy Cat.


This is always a highly-anticipated event each year. Skydivers from Team Fastrax will do several jumps each night. They will return both nights for a Team Fastrax Pyrotechnic Skydiving Display. (The skydivers will jump several times each night and return right before the fireworks.)


On both Friday and Saturday nights, there will be fireworks beginning at dusk, following the nightly balloon glows. Saturday’s extravaganza is expected to have more fireworks.

Car show

See old and new generation cars at The Ohio Challenge’s Car Show from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday. The cost to register a car is $15 on site. Awards will be presented. Registration for the car show will run from 2 to 4 p.m.

Tethered balloon rides

Tethered balloon rides will return this year and be available on-site for $20 per person. Wind and weather permitting. (Paid helicopter rides and special plane flights will also occur during the festival.)

Festival booths and activities

The Fluff & Puff balloon walk-through is always popular with kids. Beyond the balloons, there is plenty of family fun to enjoy, including rides from Murray Brothers Inc. About 30-40 vendors will participate with a variety of food offerings as well as arts and crafts vendors.

How to go

What: The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival

When: 5 to 10: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.

Where: Smith Park/Middletown Regional Airport, 2301 Wedekind Drive, Middletown

Admission: Walk-in admission is $5 per adult, ages 13 and up (children ages 12 and under are free). $15 per vehicle, which includes parking, festival admission and a free shuttle service (good for everyone in the car.). No overnight RV parking, and no personal tents/canopies allowed. Handicap parking is available with a valid permit. Vehicles should enter via Middletown Regional Airport entrance.

More info.: www.ohiochallenge.com. All balloon activity is wind and weather permitting. Guests can bring blankets and chairs. No outside alcohol permitted.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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