35th Annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival Offers a Wondrous Time

Several hot-air balloons float in the sky at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. Photo courtesy of The Press-Enterprise

Over three memorable days between June 1st and 3rd, the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival dazzled and satiated visitors for the 35th consecutive year at Lake Skinner Regional Park. In weather ranging from the mid to the high 80s, guys and gals enjoyed the prelude to a glorious summer by taking part in a multitude of fun activities.

A hot-air balloon gets ready to launch at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival as photographers capture the moment. Photo courtesy of Visit Temecula Valley

Spanning afternoon to sundown, two stages (a main stage and a smaller “wine” stage), provided the setting for a whopping thirty bands, many of them commercially and critically renowned. From Mark McGrath and his group Sugar Ray, to the Spin Doctors, The Wallflowers, Lifehouse, Fuel, Hoobastank, Lao Tizer, and then “Sunday Country Funday” with Justin Moore, Tyler Farr, Raelynn, and more, there was no shortage of bona fide musical acts to enjoy.

Of course, no festival is quite complete without on-site vendors – as there were roughly 150 in total – which provided attendees with the opportunity to snack, eat, and imbibe a drink or two. Wine and beer tickets were certainly popular, as they were sold in sets of 12 with each one signifying a $2 value to be exchanged for tastings. In fact, 19 local wineries – such as Beach House Winery, Curry Vineyard, Lorimar Winery, and Wiens Family Cellars – proudly represented the area with their fine vintage beverages. For individuals who were inclined to go the extra mile with three or four-course culinary experiences, delicious food and wine pairings were also available.

A hot-air balloon overlooks Lake Skinner at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. Photo courtesy of Visit Temecula Valley

However, despite the tasty victuals, or the bands which have combined for millions of albums sold and billions of views on YouTube, the main event was indisputably the hot-air balloons. Since it was invented in 1783 by two Frenchman in Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes, who took off on their first flight on November 21st of that year, hot-air ballooning has become a splendid and surreal escape from land.

Comprised of billowing and gargantuan nylon bags (technically known as envelopes) which are inflated with blasts of air from propane burners, and a gondola (or wicker basket) attached to the bottom, the hot-air balloon is an apparatus that is very much beholden to Mother Nature and the science of physics. For a tranquil ride, winds must usually not exceed more than 7 mph, and thus FAA-issued pilots strive to best maximize these aerodynamics by customarily only having flights around sunrise after judging the trajectory of a small helium balloon cast into the open air.

Two hot-air balloons float in the air at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. Photo courtesy of Visit Temecula Valley

Depending on the size of the gondola, as many as 12 can ride in a balloon, which weighs as much as two tons, and nevertheless rises up to the sky’s horizon with an incredible ease as the pilot continues to release the rising hot air into the envelope. At the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, as many as 40 tethered and untethered balloons could be seen at one time, adding up to a beautiful visual right out of a radiantly colorful painting. One of these was the “DreamShip,” which was designed by the children of fallen and disabled military war heroes to poetically illustrate the dreams they want to realize when they become grown men and women.

Another hot-air balloon was the resplendent rainbow “Dream Machine,” manned by Dean Davey of Victorville, a pilot since 1986. Davey’s personable and undeterred spirit brings out the adventure in his passengers, who are drifted away into the majestic and mellow stillness of the ether. In a calm instant, the elevation drastically changes, as the balloon floats like a feather above not only the trees and landscape, but the entire expanse of Lake Skinner, which breathtakingly glimmers below. Finally, upon the smooth return to Earth from the heavens, when the balloon is deflated or “milked,” Davey and others like him recite the “Balloonist’s Prayer” amid a traditional champagne toast.

The famous evening balloon glow at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. Photo courtesy of The Press-Enterprise

Fortunately, at least as far as this festival is concerned, the hot-air balloons have not been just a morning attraction, but a nighttime one as well. At approximately 8:30 pm, balloons unite to emit a stunning glow with jubilant music in the background. Suffice it to say, the 2018 rendition (on Friday and Saturday evenings) was perhaps the most awe-inspiring yet, when, to the tune of an Armed Forces medley, the grandeur and fiery luminescence of side-by-side balloons astonished crowds. Festival-goers could feel the heat emanating with each burst of propane, and witness a wonderful vibrancy offered by the magnificently massive balloons.

Overall, as people oohed and ahhed for the duration of the weekend, it was a reminder and a confirmation of why the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival just had its 35th annual extravaganza and will continue to inspire wonder in the coming years as a Southern California mainstay.

For more information about the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, please visit tvbwf.com


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