The Great Falls Balloon Festival provides an experience that is rare in the world of hot air balloons. At most festivals, spectators are not allowed in the area where the balloons are launching.

However, there are challenges that come along with having such an up-close-and-personal venue. The main launch site is small, visiting balloons are huge and visitors are smitten. However, pilots and crews need a lot of space! They also need to be able to see and hear each other to keep themselves and everyone else on the field safe.

Maintaining a safe environment is the top priority and it is crucial to the future of the festival. The festival takes safety measures very seriously.

Passengers of the Tailwinds balloon get ready to take flight in 2022 from Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston during the Great Falls Balloon Festival. In the basket, from left, are Taylor Hemenway, Jerry Callahan, Elaine Hemenway, and balloon pilot Jim Rodrigue. Sun Journal writer Joaquin Contreras, right, joins the chase crew. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Here are some things to keep in mind at the festival:

The big five “don’ts”

Don’t smoke. Visiting balloons carry tanks full of propane gas, creating a very obvious fire hazard. It can also damage the balloon envelopes. Smoking is prohibited.

Don’t bring pets. With the exception of service animals, there are no pets allowed on festival grounds.


Don’t bring your wheels. This means bicycles, scooters, skateboards, roller skates or even unicycles! The walkways around the park have a high level of foot traffic, especially at launch times.

Don’t drink. Alcohol is prohibited on festival grounds.

• No Drones. Drones are not allowed.

Launch times

Launches are scheduled at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.throughout the weekend and are weather permitting. This includes wind and clouds, as well as more obvious conditions like rain and lightning.

In the event of inclement weather or questionable conditions, the Balloonmeister will wait as long as they can in hopes of a change. However, a launch decision may be delayed by up to an hour if weather conditions are changing. Ideally, the balloons will launch by 6:45 p.m. This time frame provides a fair ride for our passengers and gets everyone back on the ground before the daylight runs out.

Launch sites

Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston is the main launch site.


On the mic

Live stage performances will end at 5 p.m. and then resume following the launch. As the balloons arrive on the field, visitors will learn about each balloon and pilot from our on-field announcer.

Fans wave and cheer as one of the final balloons lifts off from Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston during the 2016 Great Falls Balloon Festival. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal 2016 file photo 2016 file photo

Be ready to relocate

If you’ve found yourself a spot right in the middle of the field, chances are you probably won’t get to stay there. At launch time, if you’re on the main field at Simard-Payne Park, there is a strong possibility that you will be asked to move — possibly more than once.

In addition, please give the balloon vehicles the right-of-way when you are entering or exiting the field. We also ask that you take care not to step on the fabric of the balloon envelope when the balloons are on the ground.

Special shapes

Specially-shaped balloons only fly during morning launches. At our evening launches, these balloons will inflate and stay on the field to glow for the crowd. They are very large and complex, making them difficult to pack up in the dark.


This ground-level light show is always a crowd favorite. Following the Friday evening launch, which is usually around 9 p.m., some of our visiting balloons will return to the field, inflate and light their burners for a glowing light show!

Chasing balloons

Chasing balloons can be an exciting way to participate in the festival. Keep your focus on the road if you spot a balloon while driving. Pull over to the side of the road and watch the balloon safely from there. Be careful not to drive or walk onto private property without landowner permission.

The organizers ask that all folks involved with the festival — spectators, volunteers and balloonists alike — be respectful of landowners’ rights and responsibilities.


There is an ATM available at Simard-Payne Memorial Park near the information/souvenir booth.

First Aid Booth

There will be a first aid booth in the blue building with medical sign and will have an EMT on duty during the event.

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