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Rise and shine Saturday for best view of Ceres balloon festival
Ceres Balloon Festival
The second annual Ceres Skies the Limit Balloon Festival will take place this Saturday morning at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park (Photo contributed).

The second annual Ceres Skies the Limit Hot Air Balloon Festival will take place Saturday at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Hatch Road.

The best part of the largely morning event – the launching of five to seven hot-air balloons – will require visitors to be in place before 6 a.m. on the soccer fields. Those who come later can still enjoy the sight of the RE/MAX hot-air balloons that will remain until 1 p.m. for tethered flights – if there are no issues with wind – as well as a festival atmosphere that features food and arts and crafts vendors as well as music by a local band.

If wind is no problem, the public will be able to hop into a basket and lift off for tethered balloon rides as long as the supply of propane lasts. Rides will cost $10 per person (cash only) and only will go up to about 40

feet off the ground.

The gates to the park will open at 5 a.m. for first-come, first-served parking at the park and the event starts with balloons launching sometime close to 6 a.m. Balloonists will be arriving between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. to get ready for the launch after the 6 a.m.

“Some people are volunteering to help them set up and then they’re still asking for volunteers to be chasers to kind of help them put it away afterwards,” said Brandy Meyer, president of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce and member of the festival committee.

While the balloons are launching, air traffic into the nearby Modesto Airport will be temporarily halted since the park is directly beneath the approach zone.

Since the day grows hotter by the hour, the intent is to wrap up the event by 1 p.m.

“It was just too long last year so we shortened it down,” noted Meyer.

The balloon festival was introduced to Ceres last year by Tamra Spade, who was the city’s Economic Development Manager, to draw visitors to Ceres from all over the region. Spade modeled after the “Soaring over Ripon” which she helped organize during her time with the Ripon Chamber of Commerce. Spade was fired from her job but the festival is going on and this year headed up by Joey Chavez, the city’s Recreation Director.

The free festival will include a car show, approximately 40-50 vendors selling food, drink (including mimosas sold by the Chamber) and arts and crafts. Live music will be performed by local country band Lavonne & the Train Wreck, and a DJ playing music. The family event will include a kids’ bounce house and fire truck on display.

At 10 a.m. the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter will touch down at the park and remain until 1 p.m. for public viewing provided that it isn’t needed for service.

Because the park’s parking lot is unable to accommodate all who plan to attend, overflow parking is available with a free shuttle service Parking will be available at three nearby schools – La Rosa Elementary School, 2800 Eastgate Blvd.; Cesar Chavez Jr. High School, 2701 Eastgate Blvd., and Sam Vaughn Elementary

School, 2618 Helen Perry Road. Meyer said shuttles through Luxury Limousine will run every 15-20 minutes.

To help underwrite the festival, the Ceres City Council allocated $10,000 of ARPA funding for a second time this year. Expenses include pay for the balloonists to attend the event, rentals of portable restrooms, security, music, shuttle service and other items.

Meyer said it’s doubtful that the city will help underwrite the event next year “so we really have to focus on sponsorships to cover costs because financially speaking this event really costs like $20,000.”