30th Thurston Classic takes flight in Meadville this week

More than 25 hot-air balloons — including one shaped like a peg-legged parrot — will fill the skies Thursday through Sunday.

Meadville’s Thurston Classic will be flying high this weekend.

Not only because more than 25 hot-air balloons will make their way to Meadville for the annual summertime festival, but this year also marks the event’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s incredible,” said Ted Watts, chairman and organizer for the Thurston Classic. “I’ve been there since the beginning, so that’s a lot of years.”

In fact, it was during that first Thurston Classic — which took place in 1988 amid many Meadville bicentennial events — that Watts had his first ride in a hot-air balloon. Now he owns two and co-owns a hydrogen balloon, too.

“I’m kind of knee-deep in it these days,” he said with a laugh.

This year’s event, Thursday through Sunday, also takes off from a new location — the football practice field at Allegheny College’s Robertson Athletic Complex in Meadville.

Festivities will start with the fan-favorite Joyce Stevens’ Memorial Night Glow, featuring 10 hot-air balloons tethered to the ground — including Watts’ own Legal Eagle 2ZX — that will light up at about 9 p.m. There will also be live music by The Jays, 7:15 to 9 p.m.

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Then it’s off to races during the rest of the weekend, when hot-air balloons will take flight and navigate the winds to find and drop bean bags on designated targets. Races, which launch from the Robertson Athletic Complex field, are scheduled to start on Friday, about 6:30 p.m; Saturday, about 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday, about 7 a.m.

And, of course, people won’t be able to miss this year’s star balloon — a parrot-shaped balloon called Peg Leg Pete.

“He’s really something,” said Watts, adding that the Thurston Classic tries to have at least one special-shaped balloon each year. “He’s very tall and he’s very colorful. People love him.”

Spectators are once again encouraged to bring their own blanket or folding chairs to take in the sights from the launch field. (No balloon rides will be offered to the public.) Concessions and souvenirs will also be available for sale.

BE THERE

The 30th annual Thurston Classic takes place Thursday through Sunday, on the football practice field at the Robertson Athletic Complex, Allegheny College, Meadville. Events are weather dependent. Admission is free, but donations accepted to help fund the event. Parking is limited, and shuttle service will be available. For more details, visit www.thurstonclassic.com.

This post was originally published here

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