For the 32nd time, more than 100 balloons add their colors to the sky during the festival grounds during the weekend-long QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. The balloons take flight during five mass ascensions at dawn and dusk. But that isn't the weekend's only entertainment. There's also vendors and arts-and-crafts, thrill acts, and family entertainment galore. Outdoor stages also host hard-rocking performances by America, 3 Doors Down, and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, as well as pop rock band Hot Chelle Rae.
For the past 34 years, Soaring Adventures of America, which boasts an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, has presented earth-bound clients a variety of ways to explore the skies. Their balloon rides take crews of up to four on a peaceful journey to heights as high as 2,000 feet in the air, capped off with a champagne or fruit juice toast. The pilots are FAA commercially certified, and the balloons are inspected for every 100 hours of flight to ensure a safe experience.
Downunder Fitness and Surf’s SurfSET and SUPnSURF classes offer a fun alternative to jogging on a treadmill or other traditional exercise methods. While standing or lying facedown on simulators, pupils learn surfing and standup paddleboarding basics without going down to the ocean or having to help a mermaid retie her shell brassiere. In addition to fitness classes, Downunder Fitness and Surf offers yoga sessions on a beach or, for added difficulty, atop a floating paddleboard.
In the spirit of TV scavenger-hunt races and exploring local cities in a new way, the team behind the Urban Scavenger Race organizes hunts designed to support neighborhood businesses and raise money for the Stamford and New Haven communities. Before each four-hour race, teams of two to four people or very human-looking robots arrive early to sign in and show off their family-friendly costumes to judges, who will select a winning getup. Upon receiving a clue sheet, teams venture into the city, using only public transportation, smartphones, and the kindness of strangers to track down the locations hinted at in the clues. Teams have to acquire a stamp or take a group photo at each destination, making sure to return to the sponsor site before time is up. Afterward, participants aged 21 and older get a wristband for an after party that includes drink specials and snacks.
Unlike swimming, nobody learns to fly by being thrown in the deep end. Instead, it takes gradual instruction to teach students the controls and feel of an aircraft guided by their hands. Luckily, instructors Antonio Ferrara and Zachary Barrett specialize in that sort of slow-burning scholarship. Both men make their living with their heads in the clouds. Ferrara flies for a commercial airline, ferrying passengers across vast distances in enormous jets. Barrett also possesses his commercial pilot's license, along with an FAA Flight Instructor certification.
At Affordable Aircraft & Flight Instruction, LLC, the duo helps fledgling flyers find their sky legs with discovery flights and group ground school. They also teach longer courses, guiding students toward certifications as private-, multiengine-, and commercial-rated pilots.
The Island Belle—a historic, three-story Mississippi River–style paddle wheeler—has carried passengers along the Virginia coastline, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi river, and other scenic waterways. Food is served aboard the vessel during breakfast, luncheon, and dinner cruises, which feature entrees such as stuffed pork loin with prosciutto, dried apricot, and sage. For those who are more thirsty than hungry, bartenders mix stiff drinks during cocktail cruises.