by Joanna Metheny
This weekend marks the 12th annual Soaring Over Ripon Hot Air Balloon and Kite Festival, and the third year the event will be run by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce. The festival will run both Saturday and Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, and held at the Mistlin Sports Park on River Road at Jack Tone. Entrance to the festival is free and open to the public, although there is a $5 charge for parking in the Mistlin lot.
Early arrival is recommended, as festival events kick off at the crack of dawn, with hot air balloon inflation and a pancake breakfast run by locals Jeff Leotard and Charlie Halford. Breakfast will include pancakes, sausage, eggs, and a beverage, and costs $10 for adults and $7 for kids. All ticket proceeds will benefit the Valley Children’s Medical Group’s new Specialty Care Center on Pelandale in Modesto.
This year’s Soaring Over Ripon will include the annual Toddler Dash, as well as 3K, 5K, and 10K runs on Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. The Toddler Dash, open to kids under 5, is a short run inside the park, while the all-ages 3K, 5K, and 10K runs’ course will loop along Fulton to Main Street, past the fire station to Doak, and then to Robert before looping back to Mistlin. All racers will receive a commemorative medal with hot air balloon design, as well as be treated to post-race snacks, and watermelon donated by the Van Groningens. Race entry fees are $10 for the Toddler Dash, $20 for the 3K, $25 for the 5K, and $35 for the 10k. Sign ups will be held next to the water feature adjacent to the playground.
Unlike prior years, Soaring Over Ripon will not include a full-scale carnival this weekend (sorry, no dollar night!), however, there will be a sizeable kids’ Fun and Games area with rides and activities. Valley Children’s Medical Group will have a special kids’ craft area, where tickets can be purchased to make individual crafts. There will also be a donation / toy tent. For a cash donation, kids can then fill a bag with toys to take home.
The weekend will include vendor and food booths, and live music both days, with Valley Fire playing on Saturday and local band Suburban Paradise (formerly High Voltage) on Sunday. Patty Davis will be featured both days. Festival goers on Saturday can also enjoy watching the Air George helicopter and sky divers from Sky Dive California. Tethered hot air balloon rides are offered for $10.
The afternoon will feature a kite show where professional flyers will showcase a wide variety of beautiful and large kites, weather and wind permitting. There will be plenty of kites for sale. Throughout the day, there will also be two Kite Candy Drops, at 10 a.m., and 1 p.m. During these drops, a large kite will be loaded up with candies, flown over kids, and then unloaded of its burden, to the delight of the children below.
Volunteers are still very much needed, both to assist with parking on Sunday, as well as with other tasks throughout the weekend. Those interested in volunteering should please contact Belinda Williamson at (209) 499-3489.
About the author: For nearly a decade, Joanna Metheny has been a freelance writer specialized in the coverage of local topics and community interest stories. A Central Valley transplant and Bay Area native, Joanna permanently relocated to Ripon and hasn’t looked back once. She loves the city’s proud agricultural history and small town feel. Joanna enjoys spending her time in the community, tending her garden, and discovering local secrets along Ripon’s backroads.