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Hot Air Balloon Fest Comes To N.J. With Special Tribute To Sandy Recovery

More Than 100 Hot Air Balloons On Display In The Garden State

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READINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — One New Jersey town will be filled with hot air this weekend — and that’s a good thing.

More than 100 hot air balloons will be on display this weekend at the 31st Annual Quick Chek NJ Festival of Ballooning.

This year, there’s a new tribute to the spirit of rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy: A 115-foot-tall flying lighthouse will pay respects to the Jersey Shore.

The owner of the balloon, Barry DiLebro, said he’s proud to represent the state’s comeback, CBS 2′s Andrea Grymes reported Friday.

“I thought it would be years before it was rebuilt,” DiLebro said. “It’s an amazing recovery.”

For those who have never flown in a balloon before the experience differs greatly from flying in an airplane.

“When you take off, everything’s very surreal,” explained pilot Michael Blum, “Unlike an airplane, you don’t even realize you left the ground.”

More new balloons include a 105-foot tall Elvis and a fireman whose helmet shield honors those who responded on 9/11.

The event runs from Friday to Sunday. Weather permitting, the balloons will go up once in the morning at 6:30 a.m. and again in the evenings at 6:30 p.m.

Organizers said the event at Solberg Airport in Readington is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. There are 165,000 people expected to attend.

“There’s also more than just hot air,” said Festival Executive Producer Howard Freeman, “Friday evening we have Blues Traveler in concert with a fireworks show. Saturday we have REO Speedwagon and a balloon glow, a spectacular thing.”

For more information, head to balloonfestival.com.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)