Balloons deflated, Hillsboro fair continues 

  • Anna-belle Buchanan, 9, of Greenfield meets a princess, portrayed by Deanna Levesque, and a unicorn named Tula at the N.H. Unicorns tent during the Hillsboro Balloon Festival and Fair at Grimes Field in Hillsborough in 2018. ELIZABETH FRANTZ photos / Monitor file

  • Jahcobi Hibbert, 6, of Hillsborough looks over the side of a carnival ride during the Hillsboro Balloon Festival and Fair at Grimes Field in Hillsborough in 2018. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

  • Crew chief Jeff Ratcliffe of Thompson, Conn., prepares a RE/MAX balloon for flight during the Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair in Hillsboro, N.H., on Friday, July 7, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor file

  • The fairgrounds at the Hillsboro Balloon Fest and Fair in 2018.

Monitor staff
Published: 7/10/2019 4:25:26 PM
Modified: 7/10/2019 4:25:12 PM

For the first time, the Hillsboro Fest and Fair won’t feature hot air balloons, but the annual celebration won’t be completely grounded. After all, the unicorns are back.

“To blow the money on balloons, while it’d be nice to have lots of them, we can’t afford it,” said Jon Daley, the event’s treasurer and secretary.

Long ago, nine balloon pilots lived in Hillsborough. They’ve all left or stopped flying, and balloons have become too expensive for the fair, which serves as a fundraiser for local firefighters and service organizations, Daley said, so the Hillsboro Balloon Festival and Fair has dropped “balloon” from its name.

“The balloons – that’s always been a big draw. There’s still plenty to do, but I would expect to see fewer people,” said Daley, who is also a firefighter and EMT.

The fair hopes a bigger car show and a new skillet toss will bring fresh air.

“There’s a handful of women who are excited to show off their muscles and see how far they can toss a frying pan,” Daley said.

Flying frying pans and an amped-up car exhibition aren’t the only changes coming to Hillsboro. The fair is taking a break from its magician, but the balloon twisters will return and, better yet, there will be cheaper beer.

“Before we had fancy beers, and everyone said they don’t like fancy beers, so we’re doing Bud and Bud Light,” Daley said.

The fireworks – “a lot better, a lot bigger, a lot longer than any of the other small-town stuff,” according to Daley – are back. So is one of last year’s hot draws: the unicorns.

“This year they’re bringing two bigger horses too,” Daley said, clarifying that he meant to refer to horses’ elusive and horned relatives.

In spite of a deflated centerpiece, the event’s future is firm, Daley said. He knows the celebration isn’t too profitable, that a golf tournament could probably pull in about as much money with less effort, but there’s just something about the fair.

“Everyone thinks the fair is a good thing, even if it makes no money,” Daley said. “We’re gonna keep doing forever.”

The Hillsboro Fest and Fair will run Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Friday 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at

Admission is free, though some activities may cost money, and parking is $10 per car. No animals, aside from working service dogs, are allowed.

For more information, visit balloonfestival.org.




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