LEWISTON — Almost all of the scheduled balloons took to the twin cities skies Sunday evening as part of the Great Falls Balloon Festival’s final launch of the weekend.

After a weekend of rocky weather and high winds, it was one of only two full launches at this year’s festival. The other was Friday morning’s, the first scheduled launch.

Because of gusting winds Sunday, it was up to each pilot’s discretion if he or she wanted to launch. Each crew set off a small black balloon to check wind speed and direction. Crew members then decided if it was safe to launch and where the balloon might land.

Claire Schmoll of Lewiston was thrilled when the pilot of the balloon in which she was supposed to fly said they would be taking off.

“This is my first time,” she said. “I’m so excited.”

She said her husband would not go up in the balloon, but he was there watching.

“I’ve wanted to go for years,” Schmoll said. “This is sort of a wedding anniversary present to myself.”

Her excitement was shared with much of the more than 1,000 people who crowded Simard-Payne Memorial Park and watched each balloon prep and take off.

Festival organizer Mel Hamlyn said even with the weather, which was “not ideal,” she considered the weekend was a success.

‘“It was great,” she said. “We started with and ended with a beautiful launch.”

For a Saturday night with no launch, she said the field was packed with people, and Sunday was even more so. She credited the extra activities, vendors and entertainment for drawing people  and getting them to stick around.

“It was good,” Hamlyn said. “We still had balloons inflate.”

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