Our Fourth Of July at the “Eyes To The Skies” Hot Air Balloon Festival

After the fun we had last year with our Fourth of July visit to the “Eyes To The Skies” hot air balloon festival, we decided to go back again this year — and make a full day of it, rather than first getting there in the evening like we did last time. To kick off another photo-filled post, here is a preview of some of the crowds at the festival with a couple of hot air balloons overhead (previously posted on Instagram):

"Eyes To The Skies" Hot Air Balloon Festival

Unlike last year, when it was too windy to launch any of the hot air balloons, this time we got to actually see some take off, which was pretty cool. But the balloon launch didn’t happen until after 6:00 in the evening, and we arrived way earlier — around 10:30 or so in the morning. It was actually pretty empty when we first got there! 

But there was plenty to do, and one of the first things we did (after staking out a nice spot in the shade near the balloon field) was to check out the carnival, since our favorite two-year-old had such a good time at the last carnival we visited a few weeks ago. Here’s a view of the ferris wheel:

4th Of July Carnival

And because I can’t help myself, here are a bunch more carnival pics! There were lots of rides that were the perfect size for Lillian, like these candy-colored motorcycles for the kids to “drive” around in a circle (complete with faux jumps and wheelies):

Carnival Motorcycle Ride

And jet skis that bobbed up and down, so much so that I almost worried it would be too much for Lillian, but she loved it:

Carnival Jetski Ride

It’s interesting how the whole concept of waiting in line and going on rides went from being a new, alien phenomenon last time to something practiced and familiar. Before long, she was handing the tickets to the operators to go on the rides herself.

Moving on to other rides: here’s a pic of a cute little train ride this carnival had (that was actually a train rather than some nonsensical series of mini-trucks on a track like last time):

Carnival Train Ride

Lillian even got to ride in front and pull the lever to ring the bell:

Riding Carnival Train

And finally, this little car ride. This one was pretty funny — it was a pretty standard cars-driving-in-circle kids’ ride, and the thing was almost completely empty, but Lillian and two other random little girls all insisted on piling into the one pink car.

Carnival Car Ride

It was clearly the best one, no?

Toddlers on Carnival Ride

(“Road Trip!”)

They also had a section of bouncy castles where the kids could pay carnival tickets to go into the fenced area for about 10 minutes at a time, and jump on any of the three bouncy castles.

Bouncy Castles

I think this one of Lillian’s favorite things we did all day. She went through three times in a row, and jumped and jumped and jumped. (At 30 weeks pregnant now, I can only dream of having that much energy!)

Jumping In The Bouncy Castle

It brought back memories of the bouncy castle place we visited in Indiana last year, when all she really did was a little timid crawl-bouncing while I hovered nearby. Looking back through those photos, she was practically a baby — what a difference a year makes.

One of the bouncy castles had a slide, which she went down a few times:

Bouncy Castle Slide

After all the bouncy castles and carnival rides, and stopping for some lunch of obscenely-overpriced festival food at some point, we let her play the pick-a-duck game again. Here she is waiting patiently for her turn to pick out some ducks:

Pick A Duck Game

Not pictured: the hard-won hot-pink fuzzy gorilla prize.

Overall, the whole afternoon flew by. We did try to encourage some down-time at the picnic blanket and folding chair spot we staked out near the balloon field, but Lillian didn’t nap — probably way too much excitement going on. (I, on the other hand, laid down on the picnic blanket and even dozed off for half an hour or so — and while my pregnant back and hips didn’t appreciate the hardness of the ground, that bit of rest was nice.)

We ate some dinner consisting of overpriced festival food, and anticlimactically, I was actually off purchasing refreshments when the first of the hot air balloons drifted by overhead, leaving me frantically snapping photos of them with my iPhone:

Hot Air Balloon Over Carnival

But I headed back to the balloon field and was able to make it back in time to see a few more balloons launch, drifting off to the west and into the evening sky.

Hot Air Balloon Silhouette

One quick note on the photo above: those little white bubbles in the foreground were coming from a machine in the tent (a vendor selling various toys and bubble paraphernalia) and they were actually filled with fog — it was the coolest thing ever to pop them and see them disappear into little puffs of smoke. Searching around online, I’m pretty sure this is a similar machine.

They didn’t launch a ton of balloons, maybe six or so, and then inflated a bunch more out in the field like we saw last year:

Balloon Field

And just like last year, Lillian got to play with my big fancy-pants digital camera. She’s gotten a lot better at holding it and using it for its intended purpose (aka pointing at stuff and taking pictures), even if most of the pictures she took were of empty sky and other people’s lawn chairs.

Toddler Holding Camera

It took a while for all the balloons to be inflated, so during that time we just sort of hung out and watched. It was getting pretty crowded by then, and at one point a random little girl (probably pretty close to Lillian’s age) was standing near our folding chairs, and a women came over to complain to us that she’d walked off with her son’s drink cup. I was like “Um, okay… whose little girl is this?” and some awkwardness ensued as the girl’s parents came forward to sort out the situation.

In the random snapshot category, I couldn’t help posting this picture of my mom and Lillian laughing over something — this little girl loves her grandma!

Lilly And Grandma

And meanwhile, even more balloons were getting inflated out on the field:

Watching The Balloon Field

At one point, I wanted to get a picture of me, Joe, and Lillian in front of the balloon field — and it turned out okay in the sense that we were all looking at the camera, though in retrospect I wish I’d maneuvered us in front of some other balloon than the “US Bank” one.

Whole Family With Balloon

As it got darker, they moved into the “balloon glow” phase, which is always a sight to behold as they do little countdowns and then blast jets of flame into the balloons all at the same time to light them up:

Illuminated Balloons

I think this monkey balloon was one of Lillian’s favorites:

Illuminated Monkey Balloon

One slight disappointment was that unlike last year, they never opened up the field for people to walk around amongst the balloons, so we could only watch them from behind the fence. We’re not entirely sure why that was the case… but oh well.

Since it was getting pretty dark and we had a good 40 minutes or so between the balloon glow and the fireworks display, we indulged and bought some glow sticks. These were a huge hit, and kept Lillian entertained the whole time, waving them around and making bracelets and such.

Toddler With Glow Stick

Somebody did have to be told not to put glow sticks in their mouth to chew on them… and it wasn’t Lillian. (This two-year-old took on a weirdly parental air when she confiscated it from me and made me promise, “Don’t bite it in your mouth again, okay?” before she’d give it back.)

When the fireworks finally started, Lillian sat in Joe’s lap and watched them, oohing and aahing along with everyone else and with no signs of fear or apprehension — a huge difference from last year. It was fun listening to her commentary, announcing the colors, or how big they were, or observations like “It’s raining stars!”

I took a stab at photographing the fireworks with my big fancy-pants digital camera this time, using the techniques described in this article, and like to think a few of them turned out pretty well:


Multi-Colored Fireworks

It was well after 10:00 by the time the display was over, and we packed up our folding chairs to head home. Arriving as early as we did in the morning, we had scored a parking space right near the entrance, so that made things much easier. And for not having a nap, Lillian did really well considering what a long and eventful day it was — there were a few bouts of grumpiness, but no major meltdowns.

The one big drawback of our fun-filled day was that we ended up spending quite a bit of money. Between admission, parking, carnival tickets, food and drinks, and the few random glow sticks and souvenirs, it ended up being pretty excessive… But I guess that’s par for the course with attending a big summer festival like this.

Anyway, that concludes the belated story of our Fourth Of July adventures this year — hope you all enjoyed this photo-filled recap, and that you had an enjoyable holiday as well!


  1. In the long run, you won’t miss the money, because the memories are priceless! Of course, we’re all jealous of Maureen, but posting the photos lets us enjoy vicariously! And love the pictures of Lilly on the rides. She looks like a little ninja on the motorcycles and jet skis! And she’s a leader — look who’s driving in the pink car with the other little girls!

    More important than the fun y’all are having is what you’re doing for Lilly. These experiences will make her a confident, capable, and caring person! Good Job!

  2. These pictures are wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing them. As soon as I saw Lilly on that motorcycle, I told her grandpa to get on the blog! He was so proud, especially when he saw the hot rod she was in and the fact that she was driving. She’s definitely grandpa’s girl!

    I agree with Ms. Lyle about the experiences you are giving Lilly. It’s just so important for girls to learn early that they can do anything without having to be afraid. I can’t wait to see all the things that Lilly will accomplish in her life!

    Btw, you did a great job photographing the fireworks! They look very professional. :) Love you all!!

  3. I was going to say the same thing as Julie; seeing her on the motorcycle definitely reminded me of her Pawpaw Hart! It also reminded me of Granddaddy Lyle though (her great-granddaddy); I have an old picture of him on a motorcycle I’ll have to show you the next time y’all visit. :)

    I love how adventurous Lilly is becoming! And seeing her smiling while in the hot rod with the other girls, it’s obvious she doesn’t mind sharing, which is awesome; she’ll be great as a big sister! Amazing job with the photos (as usual :) ). Keep ’em coming!! ^_^

    Oh, and Grandmama Lyle is right; we’re all jealous of Maureen. ;) lol! But I’m so glad she’s there for you guys and for Lillian. Grandmothers are wonderful. :)

  4. “It’s raining stars” . . . That made me tear up a little! What a poetic young lady. {{{{hugs}}}} to you all!

  5. It’s so cute that Lily and the two other girls all rode in the pink car together she will make a great big sister!

  6. I find the idea of Lilly on a motorcycle very, very exciting, and in 14 years, they will have a 16-year-old girl and a 70-year-old man riding matching hawgs to Fort Pickens.

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