Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival | Bird-in-Hand, Lancaster County | Pennsylvania Portrait Photographer

On Sunday, in-between Saturday’s wedding and Sunday’s back-to-back portrait sessions, I woke up at 4:30am and made the short drive to Bird-in-Hand for The Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival. (If you’re not from this area and were unaware, we have some really interesting town names nearby.) Attending a hot air balloon festival was on my mom’s Bucket List, and even though she is terrified of heights (sorry, Mom, for exposing you) she wanted to watch me and my daughters take flight. My mom and oldest daughter opted to keep their feet on the ground, while me and my two younger daughters went up in a balloon. (For the record, my husband was invited along, too, but he is a really cool middle school teacher and had a mountain bike ride planned with his students - so he wasn’t able to join us.)

We arrived at the launch site around 6am, just as the sunlight started peeking over the horizon. The air was chilly, and the grass was covered in dew, and everything was so peaceful and quiet. We were assigned to balloon #7, and made our way to wait in line for our balloon, squinting to see in the dark. After we got to our assigned area, the pilot asked us if we would mind switching to another balloon - I was initially disappointed, because we were told that pilot was a great one to fly with. As it turned out, some higher power had our backs. We were moved to balloon #23 - and I am so thankful for that! I heard that the balloon we were initially assigned to had some issues with takeoff, which I am happy to have avoided. In addition, the pilot of balloon #23 (Patrick) was also incredibly skilled, informative, and funny - which my non-morning-loving-personality really appreciated. There ended up being 7 of us in our basket (including Patrick), and even though we were packed in pretty tightly, it wasn’t super uncomfortable and we had some room to stretch out if we needed to. Our balloon ended up taking off around the middle of the pack, which provided for incredible photo opportunities with the surrounding balloons. Our flight lasted about 1 hour, during which time I created some of my most favorite images to date. Most importantly, I made some lifelong memories with my family.

Not only did I leave with great pictures, but I also left with great memories of my daughters working together as part of a team. (Thanks again, Mom!!) It turns out that flying a hot air balloon really is a team effort, and Patrick did a great job of recruiting members of our group to help with the set-up and tear-down processes. At the end of this post, I have shared photos of my daughters helping with the balloon inflation (they say it was pretty hot!), the balloon deflation, and packing it up at the end.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the balloon festival. I can’t wait to go again! (Next time, I hope my mom, husband, and all three daughters can join me in the balloon!) Big thanks to The United States Hot Air Balloon Team for putting on this event. If you live near Frederick, Maryland, you can fly with Patrick through his company Tailwinds Over Frederick.

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Here are some of the behind-the-scenes shots of the preparation and tear down.