By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
Quick Chek Food Stores will kick off the 29th annual Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, on July 29 at Solberg Airport in Readington, N.J.
This year’s festival will feature 125 hot air balloons in different sizes and shapes that are set to delight crowds as they are released into the skies throughout the day. Pending weather, guests can opt for a balloon ride for about $200. More than 700 visitors usually take rides, from the adventurous to the romantic—on average two marriage proposals take place each year mid-flight.
Howard Freeman, the executive producer of the three-day event, noted the festival, which attracts upwards of 150,000-175,000 people, has itself ballooned in size during the past 19 years that he’s been involved with the gala.
“We started out with fiddlers and cloggers as our entertainment, but eventually extended that to three days worth of concerts,” Freeman said. “We now have a number of events for the kids and a health and wellness day on Sunday that includes yoga, zumba classes, a 5K race and a one-mile family fun run.”
More Than Balloons
Other festival highlights include musical performances by Meat Loaf, Barenaked Ladies and ABBA; a fireworks show; a nighttime hot air balloon glow where the balloons are lit up like lanterns; aerial acts, including the human cannonball, Jennifer Smith; and interactive exhibits from the PNC Mobile Learning Center.
“Quick Chek is focused on community and the community really comes out to support the event,” Freeman said. “We’ll have the volunteer fire department parking cars, volunteer healthcare squad acting as our heath care unit on site, the Knights of Columbus pouring sodas and beers, etc. And after this year’s event we will have raised $2 million in conjunction with Quick Chek for local and regional non-profit organizations and charities, including our lead charity, Children’s Miracle Network.”
Quick Chek, which operates 120 stores in New York and New Jersey, is constructing a 2,700 square foot c-store onsite at the festival where participants can pay to sample its store merchandise.
“We hope these visitors will try our products, love them and become customer of Quick Chek for life,” Freeman said. “There will also be coupons handed out that will enable customers to get discounts once they leave the festival.”
To promote the festival, Quick Chek is rolling out signage at stores, and getting the word out via Facebook, opt-in email campaigns and highway billboards, as well as in-store radio spots and coffee sleeve ads.
Best of the Balloons
Visitors to this Year’s Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will want to watch for these special balloons:
• The signature balloon is the Quick Chek Farm Fresh farmhouse, a giant red barn complete with a 61-foot-tall silo, a 30-foot-tall farmer and friendly animals.
• The PNC American Flag, the world’s largest free-flying flag (53 feet high, 78 feet wide, 29 feet deep).
• The 110-foot-tall Pepsi Supercan.
• The return of the 90-foot-tall Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Cone that can hold 11 million scoops of Cherry Garcia ice cream.
New attractions for 2011
• The 100-foot-tall Unique Photo SnoBird penguin complete with flowered shirt, hat, sunglasses, sandals and camera.
• The Super FMG 67-foot-tall flying super hero from the Festival de Montgolfières de Gatineau in Canada.
• A bright blue shark balloon from Brazil.
• A butterfly balloon from the creators of the Lover Bees.