Sussex set to host 31st annual Balloon Fiesta
Published Saturday, September 10, 2016 3:08PM ADT
It’s a busy weekend in Sussex, N.B., – both in the sky and on the ground – as the community prepares for the 31st annual Balloon Fiesta.
Toronto resident Hal Cooper has been looking forward to the event for a long time.
“When I started training in the mid-90s, the stories we use to read in balloon life were about people in Sussex putting white sheets in their fields, which is a welcoming sign for balloonist," said Cooper.
About 30 hot air balloon pilots from around the world will be in the skies over the weekend.
Thousands are expected to be on the ground.
"I'm thinking we'll hit about 40,000 because (Saturday's) weather is fantastic-looking," said Fiesta president Debbie Harris.
Harris says there were questions about the future of the event after the town of Sussex was hit with news earlier this year that the potash mine was closing down.
"This is Sussex, and we still go on,” said Harris. “Life is ever changing, but there are things we can’t change and this is one of them."
And Cooper is glad about that. He says Sussex is one of the prime destinations for balloon pilots even though it's one of the more unusual.
"There aren't too many places where you can fly and have these options of valleys, like jumping over one ridge to a valley or over another into a valley – that's an unusual sort of terrain for us to fly," said Cooper.
While the balloons will be soaring throughout the weekend, so too will the economic spin off from the event.
“People are hiring students this summer. They say, ‘We'll hire you, but you have to come back and work the Balloon Fiesta weekend,’ because obviously they wouldn't have enough staff to accommodate if they didn't," said Harris.
Organizers say the balloons will continue to soar over Sussex for many years to come.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ashley Blackford.