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7 things that will wow you this weekend at hot air balloon festival

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 1:00 PM

Timelapse from Ohio Challenge in Middletown Saturday morning.

Prepare to be wowed.

A giant crab and a giant gator will be among the more than 30 balloons that are set to take flight during The Ohio Challenge Balloon Festival and Team Fastrax Warrior Weekend to Remember. The annual event will return to Middletown’s Smith Park/Middletown Regional Airport this weekend.

“This is a good, positive event for the city. Everyone loves to see the balloons. There’s always that ‘Wow’ factor. Spectators often wonder ‘How did they get up there?’ ‘How do they stay up there?’ and they follow them. It’s so cool,” said Kathy Stites, event manager, The Ohio Challenge.

>> Watch time-lapse video of these balloons inflating and taking flight

The Gator is one of the special balloons that will be featured at the Ohio Challenge hot air balloon festival this weekend in Middletown. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

Presented by, the event runs Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22 from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the full festival including balloon competitions and balloon glows, fireworks, skydiving demonstrations, a laser light show, tethered balloon rides and live entertainment. There will also be carnival rides for children from Murray Brothers Amusements, Inc., expanded food booth offerings as well as 25 arts and crafts vendors on site.

Balloon activity only will continue the morning of Sunday, July 23 (no festival activity).

This is the 15th year for the festival, which has grown into one of the area’s largest, signature summer events. More than 300 volunteers come together to support the festivities. Organizers said about 55,000 guests attended the festival last year.

Here are 7 things to do, see and experience at The Ohio Challenge:

Competition balloons decorate the sky during the Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park in Middletown in 2016. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

1. Hot air balloon launches, rides and competition

Check out launches of colorful balloons of all shapes and sizes.

Mass balloon launches and special shapes will take to the skies on Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Beyond the visual spectacle of bright colorful balloons in the sky, The Ohio Challenge is a sanctioned hot air balloon competition. This year 30 participants will compete for the Ohio Challenge Trophy and to qualify for a national tournament.

This little lady walks on a partially inflated balloon during the Fluff & Puff event at the 2016 Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

Experience the fun yourself with tethered hot air balloon rides for $10 and $15 or try out the Fluff & Puff balloon walk-through as well.

Call 513-932-3552 to arrange full paid rides.

All balloon activity is wind and weather permitting. Admission to the park is free during morning hours for those that would like to see the Saturday and Sunday morning balloon flights.

>> PHOTOS: Ohio Hot Air Balloon Challenge 2016

Claw D — The Crazy Crab piloted by Zach Burgess of Monroe will be one of the special balloons featured at this year’s Ohio Challenge. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

2. Night balloon glow

Balloons can look even more amazing at night. This year’s balloon glows will take place Friday and Saturday from 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

3. Fireworks

A fireworks display sponsored by Start Skydiving will start around 10 p.m. Saturday. There will also be fireworks and a laser light show Friday night.

4. Skydiving

Team Fastrax skydiving performances will take place at 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Friday and again at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 8:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday.

Rides are part of the fun at the Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival. These festival-goers were photographed during the 2016 event at Smith Park in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

5. Festival fun

Beyond the balloons, you’ll find plenty of family fun all weekend long.

The event will include outdoor concerts, arts and crafts, festival foods and carnival rides.

“There’s so much to do. There’s a little something for everybody. It’s a good family-oriented festival in the park. There’s a lot of good food, and a lot of great vendors. It’s a good place to be,” said Sean Askren, a Middletown resident, pilot committee member and FAA liaison.

This is one of the special balloons that will be featured at the Ohio Challenge hot air balloon festival this weekend in Middletown. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

There will be live music on Friday night with The Good Hooks and on Saturday evening featuring The Slyband from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Main Stage activities, including opening remarks and the National Anthem, will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. A Wounded Warrior Honoring Ceremony, recognizing Purple Hearts and Gold Stars will be held on Saturday from 7-8 p.m.

For a complete list of events and activities, go to

>> 7 festivals to add to your summer bucket list

Competition balloons fly over Hook Field during the 2016 Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

6. Car show

A car show will benefit the Research for GIST Cancer (stomach cancer). The show featuring 125-150 cars will be held on Saturday from 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. Registration for the car show is 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Cost to register is $15. Awards will be presented.

7. “Ready Teddy” drop

One new feature of the festival this year is Middletown Community Foundation’s “Ready Teddy” drop.

T. Duane Gordon, executive director, Middletown Community Foundation, a secondary sponsor of the event since its inception, said the “Ready Teddy” drop will support the organization’s “Ready” initiative, which raises money for education in the community.

“One of the ways we’re raising money is selling little teddy bears of Ready Teddy, and every person who buys a bear is entered into a contest to win several prizes, including some vacations that have been donated to the Foundation by Pierson Automotive. We will be putting every entrant’s ID number onto little plastic bears, and around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, if the winds cooperate, Ready Teddy himself (the full-sized Ready Teddy) will be going up in a balloon with the little plastic bears to drop them toward a target. So, everyone will get to see them fall from the sky. The 10 bears that are closest to the target will win the 10 prizes we are giving away,” Gordon said.

>> Interactive summer festival guide

Want to go?

WHAT: The Ohio Challenge Balloon and Festival Team Fastrax Warrior Weekend to Remember

WHEN: Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23. The festival is open 4-10:30 p.m. Friday and 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday and 4-10:30 p.m. Saturday. Balloon activity only from 7-9:30 a.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave and Verity Parkway in Middletown

ADMISSION: During regular evening festival hours, walk-in admission is $4 per adult (children ages 12 and under are free), $10 per vehicle to park and ride a shuttle or $20 per vehilce to park on site. Handicapped parking is available for $10 inside Smith Park with a valid permit (see parking attendant). Vehicles should enter the festival grounds via Middletown Regional Airport, 1800 Germantown Road.


Hot air balloons are inflated for attendees to get a closer look during the Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival at Smith Park in Middletown in 2016. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

Popular Dayton-area festival won’t be held this year

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 11:41 AM

A vendor sells skateboards and related accessories at a booth at last year's Cyclops Fest. CONTRIBUTED
A vendor sells skateboards and related accessories at a booth at last year's Cyclops Fest. CONTRIBUTED(HANDOUT)

Crafty folks in the Dayton-area will need something to keep their hands extra busy this fall.

>> 50 ideas for your Dayton summer bucket list 

Yellow Springs’ annual handmade festival in September, Cyclops Fest, is taking a gap year to regroup and take a breather, event organizer DJ Galvin told this news organization. 

>> Festivals happening in Dayton this weekend

Jewelry for sale at the 2012 Cyclops Fest in Yellow Springs. A crowd of about 8,000 enthusiasts of handmade items and DIY culture is expected to turn out for the third annual Cyclops Fest, returning to John Bryan Center in Yellow Springs on Saturday, Sept. 14. CONTRIBUTED(HANDOUT)

The event is consistently successful and highly anticipated, attracting around 8,000 people each year. Typically, around 90 vendors bring their “handmade awesomeness” to share. 

>> 7 festivals we just cannot wait for 

Owners of Urban Handmade, a downtown Yellow Springs business that strives to “give you a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that will liberate you from the mall mentality,” are the passionate people behind the festival. 

>> Wacky foods you’ll only find at the Ohio State Fair

“Early on, we sent out an email to our existing members (vendors & patrons), letting them know that there won’t be a fest this year,” Galvin said. “The response has been supportive.”

However, Cyclops fans will only need to sit out this one year. According to Galvin, plans for the 2018 Fest are already under way. 

Wacky foods you’ll only find at this year’s Ohio State Fair

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

We visited the Ohio State Fair in 2016 and tried some pretty crazy deep-fried treats, including bugs!!

Things are expected to get weird at state fairs. Clowns, goats and pampered rabbits outnumber those attending, calorie-counting is forgotten, and for an entire week, it’s completely acceptable to smell of barnyard animals.

2015 Ohio State Fair: Day One(DANIEL OWEN/2015 Ohio State Fair | DANIEL OW)

The food fare at the Ohio State Fair is no different. There is no better time to try bizarre foods without judgement. In fact, we’re only judging if you DON’T try one of these (potentially) marvelous cuisines: 

1.) How about a deep-fried gummy bear? This ooey-gooey creature is five-inches thick and crafted by professional candy connoisseurs from North Carolina. The colossal gummy bear is then dipped in a vanilla batter and coated with powdered sugar.  Our sweet-tooth is tingling just thinking about it!

>> 3 festivals happening in and around Dayton this weekend

Dee-fried, bacon-wrapped Oreos(Brien Vincent/Photo contributed by the Ohio State Fair)

2.) Need a little protein after ride hoppin’ all day long? The Ohio State Fair might be your one-time opportunity to devour a “sloppy doughnut”— BBQ pulled pork, smooshed between a bun of glazed doughnuts and finished with deep-fried pickle chips. Wow.

>> Best Ohio burger isn’t a burger

(Photo contributed by the Ohio State Fair)

3.) Tater-tots, french fries’ chubby cousin, are expected to be a big hit this year. Food vendors will be serving up hot potato buds topped with everything imaginable. Philly tots, Texas tots, buffalo tots, tots n’ debris, gumbo tots, poutine tots, Greek tots, breakfast and bacon tots will be available, according to an Ohio State Fair press release.

>> Tickets going quickly for big-name Ohio State Fair acts

4.) And don’t forget, anything that’s been fried has also probably been wrapped in bacon. This year’s fair is promised to have your bacon-wrapped Buckeyesbacon-wrapped Oreos and probably bacon-wrapped bacon.

Deep-fried Buckeyes, anyone? PHOTO / Daniel Owen(DANIEL OWEN/2015 Ohio State Fair | DANIEL OW)

How can you find the wackiest of the wacky?

The Ohio State Fair has a new feature on their website that will be your best friend while you hunt down the craziest foods you crave. This year, you’ll be able to search for the food you’re looking for, and the site will locate the vendors selling that exact food at the fair. 

>> PHOTOS: Summer 2017 concerts at the Rose Music Center 

“With 195 food vendor options at the fair, there’s bound to be something wild and crazy. I think people have realized there’s opportunities here to try something that they might not get a chance to try again,” said Alicia Schultz, spokesperson for the Ohio State Fair.

3 festivals happening in (and around) Dayton this weekend

Published: Friday, June 09, 2017 @ 10:22 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 @ 11:45 AM

Nothing beats a summer festival - and Dayton has more than you could ever dream. Here's 10 of the best ones you won't want to miss. (Tabatha Wharton)

You know you’re in the prime of summer when you actually have to choose between all the different festivals happening on the weekend. 

>> Your guide to festivals in and around Dayton in 2017

Luckily, you have us to make it easy for you. Here’s a complete rundown of all the festivals going on in the Dayton area this weekend. 

>> Stay in the know: sign up for our newsletters

A full weekend of food, entertainment, music and vendors took over Riverscape MetroPark in downtown Dayton during the 2015 Dayton Celtic Festival, July 24-26. File photo.

1.) Dayton Celtic Festival 

There is a good reason why this is one of the signature festivals of summer. International headliners like Gaelic Storm and Socks in the Frying Pan are always a big draw at the annual Dayton Celtic Festival presented by the United Irish of Dayton. Plus the incredible beer and food! 

>> 50 ideas for your Dayton Summer Bucket List


When: July 28-30: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: RiverScape MetroPark, 101 E. Monument Ave., Dayton 

Cost: Free 

Info: 937-372-9788 | Facebook | Website

>> PHOTOS: Dayton Celtic Festival 2016

The 53rd Annie Oakley Festival will be held from July 29-31, 2016 at York Woods, 6129 Reed Rd., Versailles. Contributed photo.

2.) Annie Oakley Days

This celebration is dedicated to the world-famous sharpshooter who hails from the region. The festivities in her honor include a parade, a car show, a shoot-out, demonstrations including whip artistry, knife throwing, horse show, wiener race, story time with Annie, music and more. Plus, this festival is also known for its incredible sidewalk sales. No better time to visit Darke County.

>> Things to do at the Annie Oakley festival

>> The iconic sandwich people will drive miles and miles for


When: July 28-30: Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: York Woods, 6129 Reed Road, Versailles

Cost: Free admission

More info: Website

Win “The Holy Grail of Trappist Beers” basket at the Belgian Ale and Food Festival, August 8 at the Miami Valley Golf Club. Photo source:

3.) Belgian Ale and Food Festival

Enjoy 21 Belgian and Belgian Style Ales — plus special selections from local and regional brewers. Paired with a variety of ales, there will be a menu of authentic, gourmet Belgian cuisine. Retail beer and growler sales will be available. The "Holy Grail of Trappist Beer" also will be raffled off.


When: Saturday, July 29, 4-7 p.m.

Where: Miami Valley Golf Club, 3311 Salem Ave., Dayton

Cost: Tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the door. Designated driver tickets are $40. Also, $1 from each ticket sold will be donated to the Gem City Market, a full-service grocery co-op.

More info: Website | Facebook

>> Reasons to go to the Belgian Ale and Food Festival

>>RELATED: The 7 festivals we just cannot wait for

>>RELATED: 16 can’t-miss festivals in July



JUST IN: Another wave of artists added to Cincinnati music fest lineup

Published: Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 2:56 PM

Photo via Midpoint Music Festival Facebook page
(Photo via Midpoint Music Festival Facebook page)

Another wave of artists has just been added to the already lengthy and highly anticipated Midpoint Music Festival lineup. 

>> Tickets going fast for big-name Ohio State Fair musical acts 

The two-day Cincinnati music festival is happening Sept. 23-24 has been announcing additional artists for months, and it’s not even finished. Headlining MPMF is Cinci-based rock band, Walk the Moon (”Shut up and dance”)

(Brian Bruemmer/Photo via Midpoint Music Festival Facebook page)

New artists included in the MPMF lineup are:

Filthy Friends 



Urban Renewal Project 



Amy O

View the full lineup here of 28 bands.

>> 16 can’t miss festivals in July

“The Midpoint Music Festival will transform historic eastern downtown Cincinnati into a haven for music lovers through an immersive all-day music festival experience for people of all ages,” according to a MPMF press release. 

>> PHOTOS: July Yellow Cab Food Truck Rally

As per usual for an Ohio-based festival, there will also be featured local restaurants and craft beer vendors on site, all weekend long.

Tickets are: Weekend passes ($115) or VIP passes ($225)

For a complete list of artists attending the festival as well as ticket info, visit