GLENS FALLS For some, flying a kite is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. For others, that idea seems a little unambitious.
Mark Donahue is that sort of person. The Queensbury resident has been flying hot air balloons since before he could drive a car.
“I was born into ballooning. By the time I was in elementary school I was traveling with festivals,” Donahue said.
For Donahue, who is also the board president for the Adirondack Balloon Festival, ballooning is just part of who he is. When he is not participating in ballooning events with his three balloons named Happy Camper, Buttercup and Family Affair, he is soaring the skies for fun.
“From April to November, we fly every weekend out in the valleys,” he said.
Donahue is not the only balloonist who admires the autumn color from high above. This weekend, close to 100 will launch into the open sky for the four-day Adirondack Balloon Festival, now in its 40th year.
The festival began in 1972 in an effort to bring tourists to the area after Labor Day.
“It started with a few balloons and then 18 balloons the following year,” Donahue said. “Now it is the largest ballooning event on the East Coast and largest not-for-profit free ballooning event in the nation.”
Donahue said people come from all over the world to showcase their balloons at the festival.
“We have some balloonists that have been here 30 to 40 years,” he said. “The event is one of those must-attend events for balloonists. There is a waiting list.”
Each year, more than 150,000 people attend the four-day festival. Donahue said what makes the Adirondack festival unique is that spectators can experience the balloons up close, whereas at other balloon festivals the balloons are usually gated off.
“At this event you can roam around the balloons and touch the balloons,” he said.