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EVERYTHING You Need to Know About Wausau's Balloon & Rib Fest 2017

Wausau's very popular Balloon and Rib Fest is starting tonight and I'm here to give the complete lowdown.  Including some exclusive tips and tricks you won't see anywhere else!  I personally live quite close to the entrance of the festival grounds so throughout the years I have seen what to do and what not to do.

First, the general details:

Thursday July 13th-Sunday July 16th, 2017.  20 hot air balloons, 7 rib vendors, food, beer garden, live music, rides/games/zoo for the kids, and fireworks. (and more!)  Located at Wausau Downtown Airport on Lake View Drive.

FREE ADMISSION!  It's FREE to get into the grounds and free transportation to/from the grounds to Chalkfest downtown.  Please know there are NO food/beverage carry-ins, NO pets, NO smoking, NO firearms/weapons.  DO BRING your lawnchairs and blankets to sit on for the glow and fireworks.

New this year, there are fireworks all three evenings (Thurs/Fri/Sat) and the show gets progressively bigger each night.

Thursday, July 13
5-9pm Ribs Served ($)
5-9pm Additional Food Served ($)
5-10pm Beer Garden ($)
5-9pm Petting Zoo, Camel Rides & Pony Rides ($)
5-9pm Kids Rides & Games ($)
5-9pm Chamber of Commerce Business PM
6-10pm Live Music by The Cougars
6:30pm Balloon Set Up/Launch
8:30pm Balloon Glow
9:45pm Fireworks - NEW this year!

Friday, July 14
5-9pm Ribs Served ($)
5-9pm Additional Food Served ($)
5-10pm Beer Garden ($)
5-11pm Shuttle Bus from 400 Block to event & back
5-9pm Petting Zoo, Camel Rides & Pony Rides ($)
5-9pm Kids Rides & Games ($)
6-10pm Live Music by Star-Six-Nine
6:30pm Balloon Set Up/Launch
8:30pm Balloon Glow presented by Wausau Smiles
9:45pm Fireworks

Saturday, July 15
6-6:30am Balloon Set Up/Launch
6-10:30am Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast
7:30am Balloon Chase 5K Run/Walk
11am-3pm Kite Club Performance
11am-9pm Kids Rides & Games ($)
11am-4pm EAA Airplanes Displayed
11am-4pm RC Sportsmen Club Display
11am-11pm Ribs Served ($)
11am-11pm Additional Food Served ($)
11am-11pm Beer Garden ($)
11am-11pm Shuttle Bus from 400 Block to event & back
11am-9pm Petting Zoo & Pony Rides ($)
1-2:30pm Live Music by joe g.
4:30-6pm Live Music by Open Tab
5pm Meet the Pilots
5-9pm Camel Rides ($)
6:30-10pm Live Music by Hip Pocket
6:30pm Balloon Set Up/Launch
8:30pm Balloon Glow presented by Eye Clinic of WI
9:45pm Fireworks

Sunday, July 16
6-6:30am Balloon Set Up/Launch
6-10:30am Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast

Also new this year, the free shuttle bus will be having additional stops along Grand Ave. and within the immediate neighborhood of the festival grounds.  So, if you had to park further away, say on Kent St., you could grab the shuttle instead of walking.  The shuttle will also come in handy for going to Chalkfest downtown on Saturday.  Here is a map of the shuttle route with times.

And now for the insider tips and tricks you have been waiting for:

If you are coming from the SOUTH (Schofield/Weston/etc) on Grand Ave, do NOT try to get onto Lake View Drive or Kent St. (the two closest streets with traffic lights) from that direction.  There are NO green left turn arrows at these intersections.  I have seen traffic backed up at the Lake View Drive intersection all the way down to Perkins in Schofield!  INSTEAD try to come in from the NORTH on Grand Ave. and then you can turn right onto Kent St, Eau Claire Blvd, Ethel St, or even Lake View Dr.

Now with that being said, I would personally avoid Lake View Drive. at all costs.  This street not only has the heaviest traffic, but half the distance to the grounds entrance coming in is parking on both sides of the street.  The way people people drive, and the increase in foot traffic, makes it an interesting game of Frogger.

Use Ethel St. to come into the neighborhood.  You will be just 2 blocks from the grounds and it's a straight shot in with no stop signs for about 4 blocks.  Just make sure you are still driving SLOW, it is a residential neighborhood, and there will be a lot of people walking to the grounds.

COME EARLY!  The best/closest parking goes fast!  While there are two big free parking areas located on Lake View Dr, I would avoid those.  You can park on both sides of any street going east-west and on one side of the boulevards running north-south.

Put the closest street intersection into your phone after you park!  Trust me, at night, the homes in my neighborhood can all look alike when you are trying to find your car.

Here is a big one!  When LEAVING the neighborhood after the fireworks, try to get yourself onto Lake View Dr, Kent St, or even further north onto Sturgeon Eddy Rd.  These are the only 3 streets in the neighborhood that have traffic lights.  You will get out much quicker! (side note, not sure if they will be adding police officers to the other streets to help control traffic.  Haven't seen that yet)

I hope this helps you!  I LOVE this festival every year and it being part of my Southeast Side neighborhood!  As residents of the SES, we have a strong sense of pride "hosting."  There are many neighbors who will leave their porch lights on to help you see better while walking back to your car.  ENJOY and I hope to see you there!

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