Parade kicks off Balloon Rally Week in Wellsville

WELLSVILLE — It's officially Balloon Rally season.

The annual Wellsville Balloon Rally parade kicked off the festivities under sunshine and perfect ballooning conditions Saturday morning, with a few balloons spotted over the village before the parade. Pilots, spectators and Balloon Rally organizers are hoping Saturday was a harbinger of good things to come next weekend. 

The 44th Great Wellsville Balloon Rally gets underway at 6 p.m. Friday, July 19 with 31 balloons scheduled to go up, up and away.

Brad Thompson, veteran chairman of the Great Wellsville Balloon Rally, predicted good weather for Friday night's launch and promised the opening will be memorable.

The Rally traditionally opens with the raising of the Canadian and American flags while the respective national anthems are played or sung. Thompson said that the Canadian anthem is played and the maple leaf flag flown because there are many Canadian pilots who attend the Rally and fly.

"They've supported our Rally from its beginning and we even have Canadian pilots raise their flag," Thompson said.

Friday night, weather permitting, will also feature the official Afterglow. For the Afterglow, balloons are tethered, and after dark descends they fire the balloon's propane tanks, lighting up the balloon envelope against the darkened night sky.

The Rally starts again with a Saturday morning liftoff around 6 a.m.

"The morning launches are always nice. They aren't as crowded, but are still just as much fun," Thompson said.

Saturday's morning launch is followed by the hugely popular Main Street Festival downtown from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the balloon launch scheduled for 6 p.m. A fireworks display is scheduled for dusk.

This year, music for the Rally will be supplied by DJ Jeff Wilson.

With 43 years under its belt, Thompson says part of the success of the Rally is because it is free to attend. There are no admission or parking fees. People can get free shuttle rides from the town's shopping plazas to the site starting at 4 p.m. and running to 10:30 or 11 p.m. While food is available, visitors can also bring in their own food.

Each year thousands of visitors come from Buffalo, Rochester and Canada to attend the Great Wellsville Balloon Rally, he said.

"You can take a little balloon and fill it with helium and let it go and people will watch it go up in the air until it disappears. People like to watch it." he said. "It is the same with the Rally, only bigger, and the balloons are beautiful."

More preview of coverage of the Balloon Rally will appear in print and online this week. For more photos of Saturday's parade, visit https://www.wellsvilledaily.com/photogallery/NE/20190713/NEWS/713009999/PH/1