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Festival takes place Saturday, Sunday in Ripon
The hot air balloon launch during last years Color the Skies festival at Ripons Mistlin Sports Park. - photo by GLENN KAHL


• WHAT: The 7th annual Color the Skies hot air balloon festival
• WHERE: Mistlin Sports Park, Ripon
• WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• ADMISSION: Free while parking is $5

RIPON - The Northern San Joaquin Valley’s biggest hot air balloon festival - Color the Skies - takes place this Labor Day weekend at Ripon’s Mistlin Sports Park.

The benefit for the Madera-based Children’s Hospital of Central California is from 6 a.m. to p.m. both Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, at the park located on River Road just east of Jack Tone Road in North Ripon.

Admission is free although there is a $5 parking charge.

Color the Skies is Central California’s only hot air balloon festival bringing together hot air balloonists, skydivers, a synchronized kite show and the Air George medical transport helicopter.

The two-day festival is packed with onstage entertainment; including clowns, youth performers, and demonstration teams. A pancake breakfast, tethered balloon rides, train rides, carnival rides and games (including a jump roping zone), along with arts and crafts will entertain the entire family. There is also a fun run on Saturday plus vendors.

A pancake breakfast takes place both days from 6 to 11 a.m. The $8 ticket includes scrambled eggs, sausage and a drink. Also available both days are a hot dog lunch with chips and drink for $3 plus a chicken sandwich lunch that includes chips and drink for $5.

Activity tickets for a variety of fun things for kids are available at the rate of one for $1.50, 10 for $13, and 25 for $25.

The activities and the tickets they require are as follows: Nasco Arts & Crafts (1), Soccer Ball Kick-In (1), Jump Roping - Double Dutch (1), Face Painting (2), Fun House (1),  Chuggabug Train Ride (2), Teacups (2), Balloon Wheel (2), Kiddie Helicopter Ride (2), Kiddie Swing Ride (2), Red Game Trailer (2), Speed Pitch (2), Carousel Bounce (2), Toddler Activity Area (2), Jouster (3), Rock Wall (5), Zip Line (8), and Wow Balls (8).

There is also a kids’ store.

Tethered balloon rides are available for $10 near the water tower.

Children’s Hospital Central California is a children’s general hospital in Madera, with 340 beds. It is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Survey data for the latest year available shows that 67,120 patients visited the hospital’s emergency room. The hospital had a total of 13,336 admissions. Its physicians performed 4,487 inpatient and 5,638 outpatient surgeries.