Keep Eyes to the Skies during Lisle balloon fest

If one of the things that intrigued you the most about Lisle's Eyes to the Skies festival was the possibility of a balloon ride, you might get a chance to experience them this year.

That's because more tethered hot air balloon rides are being offered, said Brad Hettich, chairman of the Eyes to the Skies Festival committee. Tethered balloon rides will be from 6 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. daily.

The 36th annual Eyes to the Skies Festival runs July 1 to 3 in Lisle's Community Park. The carnival opens June 29.

Eyes to the Skies hours are 3 to 11 p.m. July 1 and noon to 11 p.m. July 2-3. The fest is presented by the Lisle Eyes to the Skies Festival Committee with proceeds benefiting local charities and business organizations. Hot air balloon launches are at 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day, weather and conditions permitting.

There is free parking with shuttle buses running to the festival grounds at Benet Academy, Benedictine University (July 1 and 3 only) and Navistar.

Back to the balloons — the focus of the festival. There will be five corporate balloons and half a dozen shaped balloons, as well as six or seven sports balloons, Hettich said. Look for about 20 to 23 balloons, including a birthday cake balloon honoring Lisle's 60th birthday this year.

"We have expanded our tethered rides and will offer more tethered rides as long as weather allows for it," he said. "It's an opportunity to go and get a pretty decent view over the treetops. You get a little bit of a feel of what a hot air balloon ride is, but it's not a full-blown ride."

Part of the problem with doing hot air balloons is they can't always fly them because they are very weather and wind-dependent, he said. There have been many years when they weren't able to fly the balloons, Hettich said.

"When we have them on tethers, we've always had a huge amount of interest in people taking a tethered ride, so we added an additional tethered balloon this year," he said. "We usually just ran the tethers in the evening, but now we also do balloon flights each morning starting at 5:30 a.m. and we're also going to run at least one tethered balloon in the morning as well because we get pretty decent crowds out for the morning balloon flights."

Tethered balloon rides cost $20 per person and the baskets can hold 6 or 8 people, he said.

Festival officials try to open up the field and let people get photographs of the hot air balloons.

"We do try every night after the fireworks to have a balloon glow. When it gets dark all the balloonists have their balloons blown up by the field and will run their heat for an extended period of time and you'll be able to see all the balloons glowing from the heat," he said. "That's pretty cool. The kids like to see that, too."

As for the music, American English headlines the main Van Kampen stage Friday night. Saturday is country night with headliners Thompson Square at 8 p.m., and July 3 will be Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Seeing the bands is included in your entry fee.

The Riverview stage has several local and regional bands performing throughout the weekend, like headliners 16 Candles on Friday, Wedding Banned on Saturday and Rod Tuffcurls and Benchpress on Sunday.

The festival's food court and children's areas have been expanded to offer more choices and more interactive activities, Hettich said. There's also a carnival.

"It includes stuff as simple as coloring crafts and temporary tattoos to having iFly out there for indoor skydiving and knocker ball or bubble soccer," he said. "One of the trampoline parks is out there. There are a bunch of jumpies for the kids, waxed hands, Cosley Zoo and a whole bunch of shows going on throughout the day. We have a circus that does motorcycle stunts and acrobatics, some musicians, some comedy entertainers for the kids, some animal shows."

A craft and vendor fair will be held Saturday and Sunday, and a fireworks show at the end of the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The July 3 show will be the biggest, he said.

"Unlike a lot of events, patrons are allowed to consume the beer, wine and mixed drinks we sell anywhere in the park with the exception of the carnival area," he said. "You pick up a beer in one place and you can walk to the food court, you can walk to the craft fair, you can walk to the hill and you consume your beer everywhere. It makes it convenient for people."

Annie Alleman is a freelance writer.

Eyes to the Skies Festival

When: July 1-3 (Carnival runs June 29-30 as well)

Where: Community Park, 1825 Short St., Lisle

Tickets: $8, free kids 6 and under

Information: 630-541-6095; Eyestotheskies.org

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