Remember that feeling you got as a kid when someone handed you a balloon, and you were mesmerized as it drifted into the air? If you multiply that by a gazillion, you'll get an idea of what it's like to be on the launch field of a hot air balloon festival.

The 35th Annual QuickCheck NJ Festival of Ballooning kicked off Friday morning around 6 a.m. as almost 100 balloon crews gathered on a massive field at Solberg Airport in Readington. Dense fog threatened visibility, but it didn't stop the dedicated pilots and crews from unfurling the colorful balloons and bringing them to life.

Within less than an hour, crews had begin the awe-inspiring task of inflating their ballons — a process that involved using giant fans to blow enough cool air into the fabric to begin inflation, followed by hot air that helps lift the balloon upright. Pilots use a series of controls to lift the FAA-regulated balloons higher and lower once they're in the air. They're also required to have pretty extensive knowledge of how weather will affect the balloon's inflation and direction.

The amazing spectacle Friday included balloons shaped like bears, bees, lions, flags, a cake and traditional-shaped vessels of every color and size. Many of the teams have been members of the ballooning community for years and travel around the country to participate in similar festivals as well as competitions.

The QuickChek NJ Festival of Ballooning runs through Sunday with nightly concerts, dozens of food vendors and other attractions. Ballloons lift off twice a day, weather permitting.

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Toniann Antonelli is digital managing editor for programming at NJ 101.5. She can be reached at, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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