Maria Bombara took her first Balloon ride and it was the realization of a childhood dream: “I’ve wanted to go up in a balloon since I was a little girl, a first grader with yellow balloons on my wrists singing “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon” Maria Bombara

Citrus Classic Balloon Festival a hit
in the sky and on the ground

July 30, 2014
Santa Paula News

The 7th Annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival in Santa Paula was a hit both in the sky and on the ground with thousands of people from all over Southern California who came to celebrate one of the state’s most unique events.

The two-day festival started Friday with the Sunset Wine Dinner and ended Saturday evening with the post-Glow Party: dozens of food and merchandise vendors attended the event selling items from funnel cakes and bacon-wrapped hot dogs to hats and handmade jewelry.

The festival kept families busy all day Saturday with dozens of entertainment attractions including non-stop live bands, the Glow & Show Car Show, a vintage trailer display, crafts and pony rides. 

On Friday, Bob Orlando and Steve Walker were being called real “gems” by some in the crowd but it wasn’t a term of endearment: the volunteers were among those offering rides to the Limoneira Soccer Field for guests to enjoy the county’s most unique celebration.

“I’ve been handling people since 4 p.m.,” said Orlando, and when it comes to the festival, “I love it!”

Camille Yanez was enjoying the Limoneira Co. The Power of Lemons beauty products booth where she was offering samples to passersby fascinated by the natural ingredients.

“I work and party!” said Yanez who said a favorite of hers is meeting festival visitors that “Come from all over the country... I like the people and the balloons.” 

She said her own experience riding in the balloons “Was really nice... and really mellow.”

Talia Wunder was handing out flyers for the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau and Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, noting their shared booth was also offering a convenient and nifty free service.

Noting that festival-goers sometimes balk at making purchases because of the bulk, Wunder said, “We’ll hold your bags for you!” to be picked up when visitors are leaving the festival. 

There was at least one canned ham, circa 1956, on display at the Vintage Trailer Village with about a dozen other examples of hitting-the-road Americana, including the distinctive Shasta trailers with their jaunty rear wings.

Ben Medina of Hacienda Heights said it was fun to restore the canned ham trailer, which gets its nickname from its resemblance to the tinned meat.

Medina and his wife Elaine thoughtfully displayed a real canned ham on a table to show how much the trailer and the ham tin have in common, at least visually.

But the trailer is also a tight fit: the Medina’s welcomed visitors inside for a tour of the 10-foot by 7-foot road tripper and noted next up for them is restoring a 1970 RV.

At the Sunset Wine Dinner Gloria Cameron of Newbury Park said she and her husband Jeff were there to celebrate her birthday, “And next year I’ll bring the party!”

Although it was the first Sunset Wine Dinner for the Camerons, Gloria had visited the festival in years’ past, one early morning when weather conditions did not let the balloons ascend for an early morning flight.

Supervisor Kathy Long and husband Randy are festival regulars: “I’ve never missed one!” said the supervisor who noted, “I love the Citrus Classic, it’s become a new tradition for Santa Paula to do this... and the Glow is just marvelous!”

“I didn’t eat, I consider it a jinx,” laughed Festival Founder and Coordinator Carla Edwards.

She needn’t have worried: “We were tracking incoming calls this morning and at one point they were coming in at a rate of 20 a minute!” from people asking about the festival.

Saturday morning the march of the balloons - which had started in days leading up to the festival - started early the distinctive “whoosh!” of the propane tanks easily heard above Santa Paula neighborhoods.

Making her first flight was Maria Bombara of Santa Paula: “I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was,” especially after having been a passenger in an aerobatic plane.

“When you’re doing aerobatics you can feel,” and hear the power but the balloon “was just floating... except for the occasional ‘whoosh’ of the propane tanks it was so peaceful!

In another balloon was Bombara’s son Stephen and his friend Ryan Koch and “I was all excited watching them, watching their pilot and our pilot,” Dan Walsh. “These people are so skilled... the wind kept changing and it didn’t matter, they just keep adjusting,” to the flow of air. 

Bombara said the ride was the realization of a childhood dream: “I’ve wanted to go up in a balloon since I was a little girl, a first grader with yellow balloons on my wrists singing ‘Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon... ‘ 

“I just caught up in how beautiful Santa Paula is from the air, I got choked up, had goose bumps and thought ‘I can’t believe God put me here.’ It is so gorgeous! I just fell in love with Santa Paula again.”

Bombara said when the balloon festival started in 2007, I “just ached to go... and I would go up again in a heartbeat!”

Saturday’s festivities included the Firestone Walker Craft Beer Dinner, the Glow ‘N’ Show Car Show, a Santa Paula Airport plane flyby, skydivers, aerobatic stunts among other attractions.

“Oh, there are other things going on?” joked Peggy Higgins of Santa Paula who attended with her husband Pat and friends. “We’re just here for the balloons,” and dinner from any of the dozen vendors selling snacks and complete meals.

“This event is one of the best not just in Santa Paula but anywhere,” said Higgins as the crowd started to swell for the Glow.

Amber Wineman and her mother Jennifer Wineman from Newbury Park were also among the crowd waiting for the Glow, iPhones at the ready to take photos as the balloons inflated and were illuminated. 

Hundreds of excited kids jumped up and down as the evening grew darker and the whoosh of the propane jets started to inflate the balloons until they slowly filled and became upright.

“That’s what it’s all about, that what it’s for,” said Edwards. “It’s for the children... and the child in all of us!”

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