It’s that time of year again. The time when hot air balloons fill the skies above Drake Field in Pittsfield, NH. 18 hot air balloons are scheduled to fly this weekend starting Friday, August 1st through Sunday, August 3rd. Pilots and their balloons will be traveling from all over New England and as far away as Dayton, OH to participate in this years rally.
As always the hot air balloons are the main attraction at this event but there are plenty of things to do between launches. From a pancake breakfast, a midway carnival, craft and vendor fair, tethered hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides (Provided by JBI Helicopters), various food vendors, live acts and music, a 5K memorial road race, fireworks, and a spectacular hot air balloon night glow. You won’t be bored at this great event.
Last year I went up in JBI’s Bell 206-B III Jet Ranger (N803JB) to see if I could get some pictures of the field with balloons inflating. Unlike 2012, last year I had much better luck getting shots of balloons from the air as you can see above. The view from the helicopter is great you can see breathtaking views of Drake’s Field, the Suncook Valley and surrounding area. For a $25.00 per person donation it’s one of the best rides you can go on. If you are adventurous ask for a “HOT Ride” which will give you more of the roller coaster feel.
I have found the best times to view the balloons is during the early AM launches. The balloons typically take off around 5:30AM which means you probably want to leave around 4:00AM from Londonderry so you can stake out your spot as it’s just under an hour to get there. I’ve taken some spectacular shots on that super calm Suncook River where it’s like a mirror reflecting the balloons. Unfortunately the kayaks disturb the usually mirror like water with their wake.
When many balloons are in the air at once it makes for a dramatic picture. This is why I get up at 3:00AM on a Saturday in August. The peacefulness of seeing these balloons glide over the water and through the air is amazing.
The night glows on Friday and Saturday nights are a sight to be seen. The balloons are inflated but do not leave the ground. The burners which put out 7 to 10 million BTU’s an hour are put into a special mode to produce more light into the envelope instead of heat to generate lift. This makes for a unique sight. The balloon can look dramatically different during a night glow than it does during the day.
Saturday night is capped off by a spectacular fireworks show!
Friday, August 1
3:00PM – Midway Carnival Rides Open
* 4:00PM – 6:00PM – Helicopter & Tethered Balloon Rides
* 5:30PM – Hot Air Balloons Liftoff (weather permitting)
6:00PM – Live Entertainment on Main Stage
* 8:30PM – Hot Air Balloon Night Glow (weather permitting)
7:00PM – 9:00PM – Live Entertainment on Main Stage
Saturday, August 2
* 5:30AM – Balloons Liftoff
5:30AM – Pancake Breakfast
10:00AM – 3:00PM – Antique & Classic Car Show
10:00AM – 8:00PM – Craft & Artisans Show
11:00AM – 9:00PM – Midway Vendors & Carnival Rides
* 2:00PM – 8:00PM – Helicopter Rides
* 4:00PM – Tethered Balloon Rides Begin
* 5:30PM – Hot Air Balloons Launch
6:00PM – 9:00PM – Live Entertainment on Main Stage
* 8:30PM – Hot Air Balloon Night Glow!
9:30PM – Fireworks Extravaganza!!! (Fireworks sponsored by Rotary & Corporate Sponsors)
Sunday, August 3
* 5:30AM – Hot Air Balloons Final Liftoff
5:45AM – Rotary Scrambled Egg & Bacon Breakfast
9:00AM – Frank Donovan Memorial 5K Road Race
* Weather Permitting
Drake’s Field Pittsfield New Hampshire via Google Maps
Click HERE for a larger Map of Pittsfield including Drake’s Field and parking locations
Entrance: FREE ($5.00 suggested donation)
Shuttles between parking lots and field: $1/Person (Each Ride)
Food, Beverages, Carnival Amusements, Helicopter Rides, & Tethered Hot Air Balloon Rides all have separate charges.
No Smoking, NO PETS, except service animals (due to food being served) . Bags, coolers, backpacks and other containers except for childcare and medical needs are not allowed. No: cans, glass, alcohol, skateboards, bikes or weapons. are allowed. All bags subject to inspection.
Morning Launch over the Suncook River
***Hot Air Balloon Launch Schedule: (Weather Permitting)***
Friday: 5:00 – 6:00 pm Afternoon Hot Air Balloon Liftoff
Saturday: 5:30 – 6:00 am Dawn Hot Air Balloon Liftoff
Saturday: 5:00 – 6:00 pm Afternoon Hot Air Balloon Liftoff
Saturday: 8:30 pm Night Glow (Hot Air Balloons Light Up On Ground, No Launch)
Sunday: 5:30 – 6:00 am Dawn Farewell Mass Ascension Balloon Liftoff
About JBI Helicopters
Located in Pembroke, NH, JBI Helicopter Services has been providing reliable, safe, professional services to customers in the Northeast and throughout the country since 1983. Their fleet includes 5 Bell 206 B-III Jet Rangers and a Garlick OH-58A. They also manage, maintain and operate other privately owned aircraft.
JBI is a Bell Certified Customer Service Facility and an FAA Certified Repair Station. Their professional, factory trained technicians perform high quality maintenance on a variety of Bell airframes at their on site state-of-the-art repair and maintenance facility.
All JBI pilots are FAA certified, instrument rated and are OAS / USFS carded. Each pilot completes Bell Factory Recurrent Training annually.
Here are some previous articles on the Pittsfield Rally with other pictures.
Pete Langlois lives in Derry with his wife and two children. Pete’s day job is in information technology as a systems administrator. He is an accomplished photographer and loves to shoot at air shows and balloon festivals. He also enjoys shooting waterfalls, nature and macro photography. You can view and purchase his outstanding images on his website http://www.petelanglois.net