South County festival is full of hot air

South County festival is full of hot air

KINGSTON - Get your head in the clouds - and your feet off the ground - by taking part in the 35th Annual South County Hot Air Balloon Festival this weekend, July 19, 20 and 21, at the University of Rhode Island athletic fields.

Rides on tethered and free-flying hot air balloons will be available, weather permitting, for adventurous visitors, while carnival rides, shows and activities for guests of all ages go on down below.

Festivities kick off Friday, July 19, at 4 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, balloons can fly as early as 6 a.m. Events end on Saturday with a fireworks display and music by the Wakefield Concert Band at 9 p.m., and on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Popular acts "Bwana Jim's Wild Animal Show" and "The Cannon Lady" will be there, as well as a grounded partially-inflated hot air balloon so curious minds can walk inside and check it out before going sky-high.

Musical act Roomful of Blues is new this year, performing Friday, July 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A hot air balloon glow will follow at dusk.

Taking a ride in the balloons during the day costs $15 per person for a tethered flight. Free-flying rides can be arranged on a limited first-come, first-served basis. Prices vary for those, but are typically in the $200 per person range and can be negotiated directly with each pilot.

The kite team will assemble to fly as many as 18 30-foot kites when there is too much wind for the balloons.

Carnival rides will fill the Boss Arena parking lot, a trout pond is ready for fishing, and remote control plane demonstrations and a Corvette show are both scheduled. Kids can also enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo.

And don't forget the 2nd annual Rhode Island State BBQ Championships. Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the show-down is set for Sunday, July 21, when teams will compete for cash prizes. The champion will earn $1,000 and the right to compete in the National BBQ Championship in Jack Daniels Hollow, Tenn. in August.

Local BBQ teams are encouraged to enter, and 50 teams will be selected. Entrants will be judged in four categories: chicken, pork, pork ribs and beef brisket. Registration forms are available at or by contacting Arthur Faria at or 401-789-3902.

Members of the public are invited to observe the high energy challenge from noon to 2 p.m. and vote for their favorite chicken wings in a "People's Choice" cook-off from Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. Prizes are awarded at 4 p.m.

Aside from the competition, barbecue will also be available for sale to balloon festival patrons.

A complete hour-by-hour listing of activities is available online at

Daily admission to the festival is $10 for adults, $5 for children 14 and under, and $25 for a family of four.

The festival is the main fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Wakefield, which has raised more than $1 million for charities since the event's start. Following the Rotary motto "Service Above Self," 100 percent of proceeds are donated and used for charitable purposes.

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