If you see a farm flying through the sky next weekend in the Lewiston/Auburn area, don’t fret that you’re in the land of Oz. It’s probably the Old MacDonald’s Farm balloon from the Great Falls Balloon Festival.

“This year we’re celebrating Maine farms,” said John Reeder, the balloon-meister for this year’s festival. And because the theme has been so well received and includes the 3,000-cubic-foot farm balloon sponsored by Harvest Hill Farm, the festival will also feature a farmers market.

For three days, about 30 ripstop nylon and dacron balloons will be taking to the air over the Androscoggin River.

Launches are scheduled each day, weather-permitting, at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. from both Simard Payne Memorial Park (formerly known as Railroad Park) in Lewiston and Festival Plaza in Auburn.

“Shaped balloons can only fly in winds less than 8 miles per hour,” Reeder explained. “All other balloons need winds to be 10 miles or less. This is most doable in the morning and evening, which is why we schedule the ascensions at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“These (shaped balloons) aren’t cheap to bring here, so we need to find sponsors for them,” he added, citing the Old MacDonald’s Farm balloon and the 110-foot, 550-pound Jack N D Box, which requires a crew of 12 to manage.

“Jack is cute as all get-out. He has all kinds of toys around his box. He’ll be popular with the kids,” Reeder said about this envelope, the official aeronautical term used for these balloons.

Balloon launches are not all you’ll find at this festival. Live music and carnival rides each day will keep everyone on the ground busy.

Nintendo fans are in for a real treat as well, since the company plans to introduce a new game at the festival, with a demonstration area where kids can try it out.

And don’t worry about going hungry, as local organizations will keep the crowd well fed with varied offerings.

“The food booths are all run by volunteers from local nonprofits. When we started this (in 1992) we had a waiting list for the food booths, and even now we have 30 booths and we still have a waiting list,” explained Reeder.

There will be a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday that will start on Spring Street in front of Auburn Public Library.

The parade will feature balloonists and other floats, including one with Percheron draft horses pulling this year’s festival poster contest winners.

A Family Fun Day is scheduled for Sunday on the Lewiston side of the festival and will feature a diaper derby, balloon model demonstration, Mad Science demos, a roaming magician, face painters, a petting zoo and many more activities for children.

Rick Charette and the Bubblegum Band will be the featured musical entertainment on Sunday.

“We want to give those people coming to Lewiston/Auburn for this year’s festival a taste of what Maine’s all about by celebrating Maine farms and (sponsoring) a farmers market,” Reeder said. “People will leave the festival with a true taste of Maine.”

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

[email protected]