NEW CASTLE 2001 Balloon Quest to offer more than just a lot of hot air

Some 20 hot air balloons -- including one shaped like the sun -- will be launched during the event.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Louis Merryman said he fell in love the day he took his first hot-air balloon ride nearly 10 years ago.
The 39-year-old Neshannock Township man bought his own balloon after attending a Western Pa. Balloon Quest in the early 1990s.
Last year, he, along with other area balloon enthusiasts, decided it was time to bring the colorful quest back to Lawrence County.
"I can't explain it, really," he said of his affection for hot-air flight. "I went for my first ride and I loved it. I missed Balloon Quest the several years we didn't have it, and I thought it would be great to have it come back."
After a six-year hiatus, Balloon Quest re-emerged last year, but to bad weather, which prevented the launching of balloons. Merryman said this year he's keeping an ear tuned to local weather forecasts, and so far, so good.
Balloon Quest 2001 will likely launch as expected at noon Friday and continue through July 22 at Scotland Meadows Park just off U. S. Route 224 in Union Township.
Stuff to do: Activities will include games, entertainment, tethered balloon rides, a medical helicopter demonstration, amusement rides and fireworks. There will also be food and craft booths.
Some 20 hot-air balloons -- including one shaped like the sun -- will be launched at various times throughout the event, weather permitting.
Admission is free. But because the balloon quest is a fund-raising event for the Union Township Volunteer Fire Department, collection boots will be passed, and visitors will be asked to make donations.
Merryman said many of the balloonists are looking for volunteer crews to help inflate the balloons, among other tasks.
"It's a great experience and a great event," he said. "So many balloons in the sky at one time. All different colors. It's a lot of fun and very family oriented."

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