Floats of Fancy: Soar Sky High at The Festival of Balloons

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If your kids are early birds, forget about catching the proverbial worm — head to the Festival of Balloons in Tigard and watch hot air balloons rise into sky at the break of dawn instead. Few things can make our kids’ jaws drop and produce a “cooool!” like witnessing a bunch of balloon behemoths defy gravity and float away toward the clouds. In addition to the colorful balloon displays, this three day festival boasts a classic car show, live musical performances, a beer garden for adults, and a twilight fun run. A hugely anticipated event, this year’s festival promises to excite and delight kids of all ages, so mark your calendars for the upcoming Festival of Balloons in Tigard.

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When to go: June 21-23, 2013. Friday & Saturday from 5:45 am – Dusk, Sunday from 5:45 am – 5:00 pm.

Getting There, Parking & Admission: The Festival of Balloons is held at Cook Park in Tigard. For detailed directions from your location click here. Parking on the Tigard High School field costs $5. Look for the parking entrance off of Durham Road/Swim Center Parking Lot. If you don’t want to take the brief walk to the festival grounds, catch a shuttle for $1 per person, which benefits American Cancer Society/Relay for Life Tigard-Tualatin. Parking in the nearby neighborhoods is free, just make sure to double check any signage which prohibits or restricts parking.


An admission pass is required for anyone wishing to enter Cook Park during the festival.
Three-day festival admissions passes are $7 at the gate or $5 if purchased in advance. Kids age 6 and under are free! Sorry, but this is a pet-free event, so you’ll want to leave your furry friends at home.

Best Deal for Carnival Rides: Friday, June 21st is Z100’s Carnival Discount Day which includes “all you can ride” carnival rides on Friday until 10:00 pm. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased online only. After 10:00 pm on Friday night, regular carnival ride fees apply. (Not that you’ll be out with the littles after 10:00 pm!)


Planning your visit: Go to bed early the night before your visit to the Festival of Balloons so you’ll all be bright-eyed enough to watch the balloons lift-off at the crack of dawn! Pack your camera as well, because there will be plenty of photo opps in the midst of the majestic hot air balloons.


What to do: As the saying goes, go big or go home. You may as well take in the full experience and arrive in time for the balloon ascension so the family can watch the hot air balloons get inflated, lift-off and take flight. Balloon ascension is between 5:45am and 6:15am, (Zoiks!) weather and wind conditions permitting. There will also be balloons tethered on the field after the morning launches, and you can stop by for a chance to briefly hop in the basket for a “tethered ride.”

If the thought of getting up that early makes you wince, and your kids are night owls, then opt to attend the NW Natural Night Glow on Friday and Saturday night to watch the balloons get inflated and light up the night with an awesome glow when their burners are ignited — all while experiencing a birds-eye view of the giant balloons.


There’s also a “Funtastic” carnival complete with carnival rides and games. New to the festival is the GameTime Fun Zone, which boasts an array of fun and free events including arts and crafts activities, a cake walk and a chance to meet some players from the Portland Timbers. This year also welcomes the first annual kids and adults eating contest for those who happen to have some serious appetites.

If there are car lovers in your family, then head to the Tigard Festival of Cars, which takes place on Sunday, June 23rd at Cook Park as well. Ogle all of the cars between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm. First and second place trophies are awarded to winning cars in 30 classes at 3:00 pm. Tickets to the Tigard Festival of Cars are $20 at the gate.

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Know Before You Go: Visit The Festival of Balloons website for a lesson in Ballooning 101. Then, when your kids inevitably ask you questions about the mechanics of ballooning, you’ll be able to impress them with your astute knowledge on the topic. And bear in mind that there are no hot air balloon rides available for festival attendees, in the event you were hoping to soar into the sky with your kiddos.

Where to eat: There will be plenty of yummy foods for sale at the Festival, including Famous Dave’s BBQ, Mexican food, and pizza, as well as traditional snack foods found at festival events. You are welcome to bring your own food, but be aware that your cooler will be searched at the entrance to ensure you’re not bringing any alcohol to the event. There will also be a pancake breakfast at the Festival of Balloons. Stay tuned to the website here for more information regarding the exact details.

The Festival of Balloons
Cook Park
17005 SW 92nd Ave.
Tigard, Or 97224
Online: tigardballoon.org

Have any of you been to this soaring festival? Share your tips for brining kids to the Festival of Balloons in the comment section below. 

— Beth Shea

photo courtesy of the Festival of Balloons Facebook page