Hudson-Concord Elks Club hosts 10th balloon festival

ReMax balloon pilot Bruce Byberg fires his burner to inflate his balloon during a morning flight Aug. 20. Photo/courtesy Susan McIntyre

By Dakota Antelman
Contributing Writer

Hudson – A record 6,400 local residents flocked to this year’s Balloons and Blues Festival on August 19 and 20 to mark the 10th time balloonists from across New England have brought their hot air balloons to Hudson for the now annual event, according to organizer Bill Hopkins.

The crowds vastly exceeded organizers’ expectations. In the past, the festival had attracted between 2,000 and 4,000 attendees. Reflecting on the unexpected interest in this year’s event, Hopkins credited social media for circulating information and building excitement.
Beginning and ending with balloon flights, the event entertained those attendees with 23 vendors and music from three different bands. This marked the third year organizers have operated the festival under the new “Balloons and Blues” format, which they first instituted after the festival had to go on hiatus after organizers, Hopkins said last year, deemed it “stagnant.”

“Sometimes when you have an event, it may go away, but when it comes back, everybody looks forward to it, maybe even a little bit more than when it was annual,” said State Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow) Kate Hogan shortly before a “media day” flight on Aug. 18, which she attended. “It’s pretty great that they’ve come back, that they’re able to do this, and that it’s so much fun for everybody.”

Before the balloons inflated on August 18, Hogan presented organizers with a citation commemorating this 10th running of their event.

She was also joined that morning by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) who touted the Elks Club for their work on the event.

“One of the great things about Hudson is all the events available for families,” he said. “I can’t think of a better event than the Balloons and Blues Festival. It’s just a great way for people to come together. People of all ages love hot air balloons and I’m proud that this is the 10th year of it happening in Hudson.”

Even with the success of their current format, however, organizers are already considering additions to the festival that they hope will sustain it long past this 10th running.

“We’re going to keep it the same format for a couple years but then we have to change it somehow,” said Hopkins. “All the balloons are out of here by 7 a.m. and then we don’t re-open until 3 p.m. for the afternoon events. We’re looking for an event during the day. We have a lull period between 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. We’re trying to get something to fill that in.”

Susan McIntyre stands inside a balloon and takes a photo as its pilot fires his burner. Photo /Dakota Antelman
Two crew members pull down Rudi Sachenbacher’s balloon “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” after inflating it. Photo/Dakota Antelman


A crew member for Rudi Sachenbacher works to remove the top of his balloon while deflating it. Photo/Dakota Antelman
A pilot offers a ride to attendees during a morning flight on Aug. 20. Photo/Dakota Antelman
A balloon takes off at the festival.
Photo/Ed Karvoski Jr.
Balloons gracefully move over the WestRidge neighborhood in Hudson.
Photo/courtesy Ellen Porter
A 145-foot, 675-pound dragon balloon named Scorch
Photo/Ed Karvoski Jr.