March 8, 2007
In 1989 John Korff and I decided to put our extensive experience in organizing and promoting world-class events to work for the state of New Jersey. Our goal was to develop a festival where New Jersey was the star attraction and would be showcased in a positive light.
In 1992 we met Bill Lewis of Stanton, NJ, who had owned and organized the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning for nine years. Working with Malcolm Forbes and Tom Curley of USA Today, Lewis brought about a dozen hot air balloons to the Union 76 Truck Stop on Route 78 for his event in 1983. After two years they moved the festival to its current site at Solberg Airport, where it grew to 40 balloons and 40,000 attendees. Lewis, however, was looking to sell the festival to someone with the wherewithal to take it to the next level.
Quite honestly, my only previous experience with balloons was watching the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” John and I decided to attend the Thunderbird Balloon Classic in Arizona to see what the “hot air” was all about. We were immediately impressed by the amount of traffic and the number of people who appeared “spellbound” (including us!) by the sight of dozens of hot air balloons in the sky. We immediately understood what people meant by the “Magic of Ballooning!”
In 1993 we acquired the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and signed a long-term deal with Solberg Airport. That same year also marked the beginning of a long-running partnership with Quick Chek, which is now entering its 15th year of title sponsorship. Over the next few years, we grew the festival into the largest event in New Jersey and today it is the premier family entertainment event in the Northeast and the largest summertime balloon and music festival in North America.
Backed by more than 50 corporate partners including Quick Chek and PNC Bank, the festival has grown in stature both nationally and internationally. The festival was designated as one of the Top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association and was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Best Special Event in New Jersey. Festival attendees have come from all 50 states and as far away as China, Japan and Australia, and we enjoy bringing worldwide media coverage to the Garden State.
While the festival offers fun for people of all ages, we believe in “doing well by doing good.” We have dedicated our efforts to helping the community. A portion of the proceeds from the festival are donated to the Children’s Miracle Network, which funds two pediatric hospitals in New Jersey. Last year, more than $150,000 was raised by the festival for local charities and more than $1 million has been returned to local and regional non-profits during the first 14 years we have produced this wonderful event.
This summer we look forward to celebrating the Silver Anniversary of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning — 25 years of family fun! — with you and 175,000 of our closest friends on July 27th, 28th and 29th!