Hot air balloon festival honors vets and wounded warriors

MIDDLETOWN, OH (FOX19) – - This year's MidUSA Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival is honoring veterans and wounded warriors organization with a special tribute to kick of the festival.

On Thursday, wounded warrior and Army Specialist Nick Mapson, Army Captain James McCormick II and other veterans and their families will get tandem sky dive with Team Fastrax and then take a hot air balloon ride to start the 10th anniversary celebration.

The Mid USA Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival will be at Smith Park, in downtown Middletown on Friday and Saturday evenings, July 13 & 14 from 4 to 10:30 PM; and Saturday and Sunday mornings July 14 & 15 from 7 to 11 am.

With the many entertainment options, food and experiences available in Smith Park, the best advice from the organizers is to come early and stay late.  To see all the preparation, inflation and take off of the balloons, the fireworks and laser show, on-site is definitely the best spot.

There are resting spots under a tent and some bleachers and picnic benches around the park.  Many people bring their lawn chairs and find a place near the skydiver landing zone early in the day to be ready for everything that happens there including the after-dark balloon glow.

"We know people tend to all come at once and then all try to leave at once," said chairperson Maria Langendorf.  "We suggest they come an hour earlier and stay to the end to avoid that rush and any lines at the shuttle bus stops."

The driving entrance is off Germantown/SR4 at the airport entrance next door to Frisch's (set the GPS for 1800 Germantown Road, Middletown) Ample parking is available at the airport with constant shuttle service to the festival.  Admission is $10 per carload which includes parking, shuttle and admission for all occupants.  Vehicles displaying the handicap logo will be directed to the closest parking inside the park.  For the first time this year, premium parking inside the park is available for $20 which includes admission for all occupants.

Those who choose to walk into the park should plan to enter at the 500 Tytus Avenue gate. Walk-in admission is $4 per adult. Children 12 and under are free with adult.  Morning activities are free admission with inside-the-park auto access.

Limited RV and bus parking is available and is priced at $20 per night.