HOWELL (WWJ) – More than 50 hot air balloons will fill the Southeast Michigan skies with color and spectacle this weekend at the 28th Annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest — held at the Howell High School complex, 1200 W. Grand River.

Hot air balloon highlights include a mass balloon launch in the evening, a balloon fly-in competition, tethered viewing, a balloon glow at dusk and a skydiving night show.

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Mass balloon launches take place, weather permitting, on Saturday and Sunday evenings between 6 and 8 p.m. Early birds can arrive just after dawn to watch the pilots compete for the title of Michigan Challenge champion as they fly in to the site after launching their craft from locations in the countryside.

A must-see attraction at the festival is the Saturday night balloon glow and night skydiving show. As darkness falls, 20 pilots will return from their competitive flights to inflate their balloons on the launch field. It is a never-to-be-forgotten sight as the many colors of the balloons are illuminated against the night sky. Then, the Renewal by Andersen Skydivers make a nighttime jump complete with pyrotechnics.

Visitors will be able to weave their way through more than just balloons, though. With three entertainment venues on balloonfest grounds and family activities in downtown Howell, a juried arts festival and acres of attractions, families can pick from a basketful of fun all weekend long.

Saturday is Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital Family Day with activity stations for kids set up on the courthouse lawn. Test your slingshot ability at the balloon launch, solve a binary code mystery, play international hopscotch, paint, experience tactile Sudoku and create projects as souvenirs of your balloonfest visit including slime, moon sand and bird feeders. There is also a bubble factory, watercolor painting, toddler tumbling and ceramics.

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Daytime attractions include Windjammers stunt kite shows, carnival rides, comedy and juggling shows and Pistons parties at the PNC tent.  There’s also a mobile video game station, an interactive display from the United States Tennis Association and Soccer Shots.

Artists from all over the country will display their handcrafted work in the juried Arts Festival. Also in the arts festival area, kids can play in the Family Fun Tent, learn about animals from the Howell Conference & Nature Center and run a foot race at the Livingston County Family YMCA Balloonfest 500.

The Yankee Air Museum returns with a display in the Landing Zone, B-25 flyovers and rides from the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport and a special ceremony for Veterans at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning at the main stage.

New this year – Annabelle Road, a local country rock band, will perform on the main stage on Saturday night.

Parking passes are $12 a day or $20 for a weekend pass. Passes include admission for everyone in the car.

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