Up in the Air

Ballooning competition in Velikiye Luki

International ballooning competition held in Velikiye Luki is Russia’s largest aeronautics-related event that is held every June in Pskov region for 22 years. Dozens of multicolored hot air balloons go up in the sky above the waters of the Lovat river. This event attracts sport-lovers from Russia and Europe. The town is very well located in terms of hosting internation festivals. It is equidistant from Moscow and Saint Petersburg and also not far away from Estonian border.

It seems like this festival made the dream of Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (the ones who invented the hot air balloons) come true. The festival includes all sorts of competitions and the beautiful demonstrational flights. The festival also includes outdoor festivities, hot air balloons lighted by night, a concert and a procession of balloonists accompanied by a band with majorettes and an arts and crafts fair.

The most spectacular ballooning contest is called ‘key grab’ literally meaning ‘hit the mark.’ While flying above the river, the balloonists try to hit with their markers a target in the form of a small basket placed on a catamaran next to the central bridge.

During the festival, no free of charge flights are available. Though there is a lifehack by the experienced festival guests: you can find online the contact details of participants and get inscribed for a flight with anyone of them. The guests start booking rooms in the local hotels in April. Sometimes, they set up a tent camp on the town beach.

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