Does Your Mother Know That You’re OUT? Branchburg Balloon Fest and “ABBA”
The Balloon Festival of Branchburg New Jersey is one of the biggest festivals to take place in New Jersey. While many other Jerseyans may see it as no big deal because it happens every year, it is actually the largest Hot Air Balloon Festival in North America, and usually draws some pretty heavy music stars! In recent years, the musical guests have included The Jonas Brothers, and Styx! This year, the three day festival boasted ABBA, The Barenaked Ladies, and Styx, and I got second row tickets for ABBA! Dancing Queen here I come!
The festival takes place every July at the end of the month at Solberg Airport in Branchburg, and I try to make it every year! There are hundreds of different vendors giving out thousands of samples, kashi cereal, Honest Tea, Pepsi One, Coke Zero, any sample of anything you could possibly think of is given out, not to mention tons of silly free swag. There are t-shirts, bags, key chains, all kinds of crazy stuff given out for free. There are tons of giveaways, sweepstakes to enter, giant bouncy castles, carnival rides, and tons of stuff! Every brand is there pushing their stuff in little white tens lining the runways. The biggest sponsor, a tri-state area convenience store Quick Chek, even has a giant Quick Chek tent set up to simulate a store! They have refrigerators and the same coffee bar and everything!
I personally find that while people go nuts over silly swag (like do you REALLY need a PNC bank key chain or an Honest Tea T-Shirt?) the vendor/tent area of the Balloon Festival needs some updating. I think they need more cool merchandise and more participatory things rather than just random vendors giving out samples. I think they need more random things to participate in, games, whatever, something to spice it up. It’s fun to walk through, and there are some vendors of home made bracelets, dream catcher-type stuff, incense, and A LOT of hot air balloon-related vendors, but that is about it. I would love to see cooler merchandise. Walking around the festival is pretty fun, but it could be more fun, is what I am trying to say. We were only drawn into the free swag when it had to do with a fun game, link playing Plinko to win a key chain.
The big draw of the festival is the Hot Air Balloons, that launch twice a day, weather permitting, every day of the festival at 6:30AM and 6:30PM. It is a sight, and if you are ever in the area, you have to see it at least once. They launch over 100 balloons at the same time, one right after the next, and it is so beautiful!!! The balloons are gigantic, and you can get very close to them as they blow them up. They are huge, so it is quite the spectacle to see them get off the ground. When all the balloons make it into the air, around sunset, they take up the entire sky over the airport. There are tons of regular balloons, and many fun-shaped balloons like a butterfly, penguin, and a even a farm house. I love going to see the hot air balloons launch, and it is a great time for taking photos because of the sunset behind the balloons. I LOVE coming to the balloon fest for this reason! I hope to ride in one someday, for sure!
After snapping about a million pictures, we were headed to see ABBA! I was so excited, because who doesn’t know at least a dozen ABBA songs, and as I previously mentioned, we were in the SECOND ROW CENTER! Holla! On the ticket, and posters, and just about everywhere it said ABBA, and in tiny print ‘with some of the original members.’ As it turned out, it was NOT the original ABBA, but rather a tribute band from Sweden wearing wigs. I have to say, I really didn’t know it wasn’t going to be the real ABBA! Apparently some other people I talked to knew this, but when they say ‘some of the original members’ you think one or two of the main musicians from the band. The ‘original member’ was a single saxophone player who had played with ABBA a few times!! How do you like them apples?!?
To be honest, I couldn’t pick ABBA out of a line up, so it didn’t really matter to me. The ABBA tribute banned did a great job, and I got to rock out to ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out?’ all the same. They were all really great performers and sounded just like the real ABBA! A great time was had by all!