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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 Selection.com, 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 www.ohiochallenge.com.

>> 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.

MORE INFO: www.ohiochallenge.comwww.warriorwtr.com

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)

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Brew 101: 6 do's and don'ts for your first craft beer fest

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2018 @ 4:43 PM

7 Facts About Beer

So you want to go to a beer festival. Wouldn't any self-respecting beer aficionado feel the same?

Brew fests are a lovely rite of passage, with their exclusive releases, tasting flights, food pairings and live music.

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Still, the wonderful parts don't just happen without due diligence on the part of the beer lover (that's you.) Before you pony up for tickets or set out with your necklace of pretzels and a souvenir tasting vessel, take some advice from beer festival pros:

Beer lovers at the top-rated Great American Beer Festival in Denver savor the samples.(Contributed by the Great American Beer Festival/Denver/For the AJC)

Pick an event that will expand your beer experience. You can get hammered any time; your first beer festival should be more about really tasting regional brews and enjoying brewery lore and culture. According to LA Times Food contributor John Verive, to find a festival that's more about showcasing local or regional brews and less about pounding beers, look for a festival organized by, or in support of, a nonprofit. "Next time you're at your favorite local brewery, ask them which upcoming events they're excited to attend," noted Verive, who is also the founder of Beer of Tomorrow.

Also, note how the beer will be served. Some events have unlimited samples; others provide a set number of drink tickets with your admission. "The all-you-can-drink events are usually more expensive up front but they can work out to a better value if your goal is to try as many brews as possible," Verive noted.

Consider volunteering your first time out. If you take the advice to seek out a non-profit festival, a good way to get your feet wet is by volunteering instead of plunking down money for a ticket without knowing what to expect. Most festivals with volunteer opportunities ply volunteers with souvenir glasses, post-shift tasting tickets and free event t-shirts.

If you go this route, next year you'll know what to expect at the festival and whether or not it's worth investing in a ticket. Full disclosure: Some volunteers have so much fun they never do graduate to becoming attendees, instead returning year after year to pour beers and take tickets with friends they've met in years past.

Form a plan and then pace yourself. Figure out which brewers will be at your selected event and locate their booths on the festival website's map. As you enter, start far away from the entrance if there's only one, so you can avoid the rush to the closest stands. Plan to visit the stands with limited releases or those that feature home brews. Another strategy is to visit the tiniest breweries first since they tend to run out of at least some of their beers the most quickly. "Use the same strategy you would use at a theme park—hit the highest-demand tables first while the lines are short," Craft Beer and Brewing magazine advised. "Then as the lines grow, branch out to less-crowded ones."

Chat up the brewery reps. To really enjoy your first brew fest, seek out the booths and vendor tables with brewers and brewery employees doing the pouring, Verive recommended. "Instead of asking for 'the strongest' or 'the most hoppy' beer available, ask for advice on what you should try," he added. "Especially if you're new to beer, the brewery staff can point you toward the styles and brands to try first."

Don't get drunk. That's not the point, not this time. Make sure to eat a meal about an hour before the festival, CBB recommended.

"Give yourself some time to digest your meal. Drinking beer on a empty or full stomach can be equally uncomfortable and inadvisable." Also drink water before, during and after your time at the festival, especially if you'll be in the sun or warm weather. "

For every ounce of beer you drink, drink the same amount of water," CBB said.

"Not only will you feel better during the festival, but you'll also feel much better the next day, letting you get right back at it. And if you're at a festival full of octanes (beers above 8 percent alcohol by volume), consider making it a 2:1 rule."

Three good bet beer fests

After you soak in all this beer fest knowledge, if you're still considering which beer festival will be your first, here are three very good bets:

Fancy: The Savor American Craft Beer and Food Experience in Washington, D.C. is held at the National Building Museum.(Contributed by Savor: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience/Washington, D.C./For the AJC)

Savor: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, Washington, D.C.

June 1-2, 2018

There isn't a single craft beer festival that comes to the level of class and sophistication of Savor, according to Ale/Sessions. "We're talking a whole new level of beer and food appreciation generally reserved for wine snobs. It's quality over quantity for this festival, with a select number of brewers chosen to pair with creative culinary dishes. High class beer at its best."

Oregon Brew Fest, Portland

July 26-29, 2018

Another pick from Ale/Sessions, Oregon Brew Fest is also one of the longest-running beer festivals in the country. It attracts a robust crowd of, oh, 70,000.

The Great American Beer Festival, Denver

Sept. 20-22, 2018

The only American festival to make the Collector's list of 2018 "8 Best Beer Festivals," these three beer-soaked days of celebration feature more than 800 breweries and 3,800 beers. The festival includes both a public tasting event and a private competition.

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Score some amazing vinyl for your collection at the Dayton Record Fair

Published: Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

The Dayton Record Fair was held Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Yellow Cab in downtown Dayton. PHOTO / TOM GILLIAM PHOTOGRAPHY
The Dayton Record Fair was held Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Yellow Cab in downtown Dayton. PHOTO / TOM GILLIAM PHOTOGRAPHY

The allure of vinyl records endures much like an old school crush, for better or worse. This once-pronounced dead media has risen from the ashes to serve far more than a niche audience. 

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According to Billboard, vinyl sales have increased more than 250 percent in the last eight years. 

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Capitalizing on that rising tide is Dayton’s record fair, happening Saturday, Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. 4th St. 

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The event is presented by the new Skeleton Dust Records, co-owned by Luke Tandy, and Cincinnati’s Northside Record Fair. The Drunken Waffle food truck will be serving, and DJs include James Downing, Jack Davidson and Tim Dylan.

>> Skeleton Dust Records opens in downtown Dayton 

Vendors include Ron House, Rob Coyle, Torn Light Records, Greg Biggs, Vinyl Shock Records, Jorin Edgerly, Leroy Purcey, Neil Sharrow, Jeff Bruce, Rob Kopfer, Jon Lorenz, Steve Spatt, John Papanek, Greg Durica, Doug Smith, Paul Tescher, Jeremy Wright, Scott Ferguson, Scott Simpson, Tim Rawlings, Jaren Lykens, Skeleton Dust Records, Mike Inlow and Jay Madewell. 

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The Dayton Record Fair was held Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Yellow Cab in downtown Dayton. PHOTO / TOM GILLIAM PHOTOGRAPHY

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That’s more than 20 vendors from Dayton and throughout the Midwest who will be offering up more than just vinyl. Tapes, CDs, T-shirts, posters and more will be up for grabs as DJs spin music from various genres throughout the day. If you’re a hardcore collector, you can buy an early bird pass to get first dibs an hour ahead of the rest. 

>> 8 Dayton acts you should give a funk about

WHAT WE SCORED FOR $20

This got us thinking about Dayton’s own record store, Omega Music, located at 318 E. Fifth St., which offers deals on vinyl year round. Say you had $20 on you just burning a hole in your pocket? What could you get for that Andrew Jackson? Here’s what we found on a trip to the store.

ELVIS PRESLEY 

“The Wonder of You”/“Mama Liked the Roses”

$2.99

(Jim Ingram)

Written by Baker Knight and recorded by several, including Ray Peterson, Ronnie Hilton and the Platters, “The Wonder of You” had long been a hit by the time The King released a live version in 1970. Elvis’ was the highest-charted version, reaching #9 — as did the B-side “Mama Liked the Roses”.

>>You have to see this local woman’s massive Elvis collection

GEORGE CARLIN

Take-Offs and Put-Ons

$4.99

(Jim Ingram)

This particular album is a bit misleading, based solely on the cover. Originally released as the iconic comic’s second stand-up album in 1967, it was re-released with an entirely different cover in 1972, following the smash success of his FM & AM album, which won a Grammy Award that same year. 

>> Did you know George Carlin has Dayton connections?

LOUIS JORDAN

I Believe In Music

$4.99

(Jim Ingram)

Louis Jordan was once called “The King of the Jukebox” for the hits he churned out in the 1940s. Songs like “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”, “Caldonia Caldonia” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry” were considered early influences on rock ‘n’ roll’s pioneers. Though not as in demand by the time I Believe in Music was released in 1973, Jordan was still a name. However, it would be his final album, as he died just 15 months later.

WINGS

“Silly Love Songs”/“Cook of the House”

$3.99

(Jim Ingram)

It’s an admittedly sappy pick, but its melody is hard to shake. Paul McCartney told Billboard Magazine in 2001 he didn’t write “Silly Love Songs” as a way of thumbing his nose to critics who deemed him too soft, contrary to popular belief. He simply loved love songs. Tough to argue with a master about his methods. McCartney’s late wife, Linda, shared writing credits on the B-side.

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BILLY PRESTON

“I Wrote a Simple Song”/“Outa-Space”

$1.99

(Jim Ingram)

Speaking of former Beatles, Billy Preston — who played on the Get Back sessions and was among several considered as a “Fifth Beatle” — thought his funky 1972 instrumental “Outa-Space” would be a hit. However, the suits at A&M Records made “I Wrote a Simple Song” the A-side. But enterprising DJs discovered the B-side anyway, making “Outa-Space” a huge hit, while its lead single skimmed the lower end of the Billboard Hot 100.

The total comes to $18.95 (before tax), leaving you with some excellent finds for a little bit of cash.

WANT TO GO?

What: Dayton Record Fair

When: Saturday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. Fifth St., Dayton

Cost: $5 ($10 for early bird tickets)

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These EPIC displays from the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival will take your breath away

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Chinese Lantern Festival

You’ve never seen holiday lights like THIS before! 

(Well, unless you went last year, of course!)

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival has returned to the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds with brand new light sculptures, more exciting performances and more cultural experiences. 

>> How to go to the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival this year

It’s definitely worth the drive to take part in this enchanting and immersive cultural experience. 

>> Comedian Kevin Hart is coming to Dayton 

The 200-foot-long Chinese dragon (which, for some context, is longer than four school buses) has returned this year. New this year is a group of color-changing dinosaurs that are 3 stories high. Together, with an additional 35 sets of whole new lights, the lanterns illuminate the fairgrounds. 

>> Popular Dayton brewery announces it’s launching a second label

Still need some convincing? Take a look for yourself. 

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is returning to the Expo Center with bigger and brighter lights this winter!(Allegra Czerwinski)

Believe us when we say to witness these incredible lantern displays in person is far more breathtaking. 

The festival will light up the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio State Expo Center and Fairgrounds, located at 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus from Nov. 17, 2017 to Jan. 7, 2018. 

It’s open nightly from 5:30-10:00 p.m with the ticket booth opening at 5 p.m. and closing at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $10-15 per person, and will be available for purchase at the festival entrance, or online at ohiolanternfestival.com. There are also family 4-packs available for $40 and a special VIP package for $25 per person. 

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Macy’s Day Parade 2017: 5 things to know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:54 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:54 AM

Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade - 5 Fast Facts

There are a number of things associated with Thanksgiving− turkey, pilgrims, big dinners and family. One of them is the tradition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Since 1924, Macy's has helped thousands of families celebrate the holidays with its annual parade. 

If you plan to travel to New York to see the spectacle for yourself this year or will be tuning in, here are five things to know about the parade:

Spider-Man at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Where is the parade route and where can I view it?

The parade steps off at 9 a.m. sharp from 77th Street and Central Park West and travels south. Once the procession hits Columbus Circle, it turns east onto Central Park South and marches until turning south again onto 6th Avenue. The parade continues south until reaching 34th Street, where it turns west and ends at 7th Avenue. The last of the balloons and performers touch 7th Avenue around noon.

(Macy’s)

While there is no seating available for the public, anyone is welcome to bring blankets or chairs and find a spot along the parade route at no charge. Since these spots are first-come, first-serve, some families camp out several hours before the parade begins. Plan to arrive early to snag good seats.

Many regular parade-goers recommend avoiding Macy's official parade viewing area on 34th Street, since it's the most crowded. One balloon handler on Reddit suggested that Columbus Circle also might not be a good viewing area, since the winds are more unpredictable and the procession moves more quickly through that spot. He added that the first few blocks south of 77th Street tend to attract smaller crowds because that street is farther from the train stations.

What is included in the parade procession?

In addition to more than two dozen inflated balloons, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade features floats, clowns, performers and marching bands from across the country. The Peanuts gang appear on their float, Snoopy's Doghouse, alongside McDonald's Big Red Shoe, Mount Rushmore, Winter Wonderland by Delta Airlines and more, including Macy's many floats.

Macy's website also lists the participating clown troupes with themes like Breakfast Clowns, Arrsome Pirates and Viking Clowns. Marching bands in the procession include several high schools and colleges, the U.S. Air Force, New York Police Department, and, of course, Macy's Great American Marching Band.

In addition to the parade procession, the event features performances that are held in the official Macy's viewing area on 34th Street. Check the Macy's website for updates to the lineup and more information on these performances.

The Harrison High School Marching Band from Kennesaw performed Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.(Jim Galloway / AJC)

Is Macy's unveiling anything special this year?

Among Macy's novelty balloons is a special tribute that deserves recognition. As a nod to the 70th anniversary of "Miracle on 34th Street," Macy's is recreating "Harold the Baseball Player," a balloon that was featured in the classic black-and-white film set in New York.

Though the original balloon appeared in full color during the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, the recreation is black, white and gray as a throwback to the movie, which was shot on location and featured the parade. 

Can I see the balloons outside of the parade?

All of the balloons are inflated on Wednesday, November 22, and the event is open to the public. Head to Central Park West between 77th Street and 81st Street, near the American Museum of Natural History.

The balloons are inflated between 3 and 10 p.m., but the bulk of them are done in the evening, so it's best to be late to this event.

What if I can't get to New York?

If you can't get to the Empire State for Thanksgiving, there are still plenty of ways to experience the parade in your pajamas. Watch the procession at 9 a.m. EST on NBC to see the balloons, floats and performers without fighting any crowds.

For a behind-the-scenes experience, Macy's has created a series of 360° videos that take the viewer on a tour of its parade studio. See the magic behind the Thanksgiving tradition and learn about how the balloons are made, from sketch to inflation.

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