TEMECULA – “Somewhere over the Rainbow” Gap, lies a land of rolling emerald vineyards, iridescent blue skies and graceful hot air balloons. The Rainbow Gap is a natural phenomenon of the Temecula Valley that ushers the evening sea breezes into the valley of wine.
It is this backdrop that cradles the 34th annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, June 2-4 and where hundreds of bucket-listers put a check mark next to a dream come true as they ascend to the skies in a hot air balloon above Lake Skinner Recreation Park. Up to 40 hot air balloons will join in the dawn ascensions from the Festival grounds Saturday and Sunday of the event.
This year when the DreamShip takes flight, more dreams will come true. A hot air balloon created from the illustrations by children of fallen and disabled military heroes, the DreamShip is a floating inspiration. Of the 400 panels on the balloon, 130 “Folds of Honor” scholarship recipients’ images picture what they want to be when they grow up. Folds of Honor provides educational support and scholarships for spouses and families of America’s fallen and disabled service members.
The DreamShip’s inaugural flight was in September 2016, and it will make its first west coast appearance in Temecula. It comes with special exhibits designed to help raise awareness and funds for the Folds of Honor organization. An interactive exhibit, it includes a virtual reality hot air balloon ride and a virtual reality art station, where children can use Tilt Brush technology to draw their own dreams.
The Festival will also see a new balloon lift into the sky from Pechanga Resort & Casino. This burgundy beauty will sport the resort’s new logo. Along with Pechanga’s balloon will be the Wilson Creek Winery Champagne bottle, and Bimbo Bakeries’ iconic hot air balloon. Bimbo Bakeries USA is sponsoring the Festival’s evening balloon glow and will be providing glow souvenirs at the gates while supplies last.
Evening balloon glows Friday and Saturday will pay a musical tribute to the Armed Forces. Balloon glows are a synchronization of music to the illumination of the balloon canopies against the velvet black skies of night. The pilots ignite the burners normally used to “raise” the balloon for a balloon flight. This fills the canopy with light, making a spectacle of color. Crowds love to do countdowns to the burn and flickers of the flames as they command the show.
Sailing above the Lake Skinner and Shipley Preserve landscape offers vistas of the wine region and open spaces. Pilots and experienced passengers hope for the perfect air currents to create a “box” where the balloon ascends to one altitude that travels north and south, and another east and west allowing the pilot to land almost where they launch. It is a rare occurrence, as most times the balloons lift from the Festival grounds and glide to an unknown destination.
Balloon flights from the Festival grounds are scheduled for 6 to 6:30 a.m. (time approximate, weather permitting) Saturday and Sunday of the event. Occasionally, cloud cover may force the balloons to launch off-site which can add another unique experience of landing at the Festival.
Festival guests can catch a flight Saturday or Sunday for $225, by reserving a balloon flight now at www.hotairtours.com or by calling (800) 965-2122. The flights include same-day Festival admission, Champagne or orange juice, and a first flight certificate. Weather ultimately determines when and where the balloons can launch and land.
For guests who want to try their wings without letting go of terra firma, the Festival offers free tethered rides Saturday and Sunday morning after the launch. The balloon rides are about 10 minutes long. Hot air balloon activities are always weather permitting.
Sponsored by the Economic Development Agency of Riverside County and the City of Temecula, the event is held annually at Lake Skinner Recreation area in Wine Country. For more information contact the Festival at (951) 676-6713 or visit www.tvbwf.com.