Balloons stay earthbound at Green River Festival

  • Philip Price, of the Winterpills, performs on the Four Rivers stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival, watch as Winterpills performs at the Four Rivers stage Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Dave Hower, of the Winterpills, performs on the Four Rivers stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Bridget Kearney, of the band Lake Street Dive, performs with Benjamin Lazar Davis at the Parlor Room stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Benjamin Lazar Davis performs with Bridget Kearney of the band Lake Street Dive, at the Parlor Room stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago, performs at the Four Rivers stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Two attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, listen to Birds of Chicago perform at the Four Rivers stage Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, take shelter underneath umbrellas as it begins to rain Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Mal Devisa performs at the Green River stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Max Germer, of the Winterpills, performs on the Four Rivers stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Joel Schwartz performs with Birds of Chicago at the Four Rivers stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, take shelter pressed up against a building as it pours rain Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College, cheer as Birds of Chicago finish their set at Four Rivers Stage, Sunday. For more photos from the festival, see page B1. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Bridget Kearney, of the band Lake Street Dive, and Benjamin Lazar Davis, perform at the Parlor Room stage at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Ann St. Jean, of Montague, sports a Jeff Martel pin at the 30th annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College Sunday, July 10. St. Jean has been coming to the festival for 15 years. This year she celebrated her 63rd birthday during the festival. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival stand in the rain as Los Lobos performs at the Green River stage Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A couple attendees of the 30th annual Green River Festival seek refuge from pouring rain underneath a tarp Sunday, July 10. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Hot air balloons struggle to take flight at the Green River Festival, Friday night. RECORDER STAFF PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 7/11/2016 12:33:48 AM

For the first time in decades, no hot air balloons flew at the Green River Festival, an annual music festival that never fails to draw massive crowds, where typically the colorful hot air balloons can be seen above.

While festival goers danced to bluegrass jams and munched on chicken kebabs this weekend, seemingly unaffected by the wet weather, a group of hot air balloon pilots, who traveled from all over New England to fly at the festival, sat under an awning, sipping beer and waiting for the rain to stop, but it never did.

“It’s just a poor weather weekend for us,” said Paul Sena, a hot air balloon pilot, who spent hours over the festival weekend monitoring the forecasts and hoping that the rain would let up. Owner and operator of Worthington Ballooning, a company that specializes in flights in the Berkshires, Sena has been flying balloons at the festival for decades.

“The weather was cool, a little damp and not flyable. The festival was enjoyed by all — except for the balloon pilots,“ said Sena. “In 30 years this was the first time we got weathered out.”

Nine balloon pilots traveled to fly during the festival. Pilot Bruce Byberg drove two and a half hours from Coventry, R.I., to launch his balloon at the festival. He was disappointed when he realized it wasn’t safe to fly. “When I bring the balloon, I like to take it out of the trailer,” he said.

The pilots waited. One hour there would be light showers, the next there were heavy downpours, with sunny moments in between. “You just can’t fly in the rain,” Sena said. 

He had gotten up at 4 a.m. to check the weather on Sunday, but by the late afternoon, all of the balloon rides scheduled for the Green River Festival weekend had been canceled, for both the safety of the passengers and to protect the balloons from water damage.

If a balloon gets wet, its lifespan could be reduced by 20 to 30 percent, Sena said.

Foggy air on Sunday morning also caused limited visibility, which could have prevented the pilots from seeing the tops of utility poles, or even mountains.

By late Sunday afternoon, balloon pilots had their share of frustration waiting under a tent, monitoring the weather. “Their biggest concern is the safety of the passengers,” said Ann Hamilton, the president of the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce.

About 50 people who made reservations to fly in a balloon at the festival didn’t get the opportunity, but at least one balloonist had already begun rescheduling trips for local residents who still want to take a balloon ride.

“This air is very unstable today. We will fly another day,” Sena said late on Sunday afternoon.




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