Point of Departure

Governor Brennan helps dedicate the balloon liftoff memorial in Presque Isle on July 31, 1981.

Mark your calendars now for August 25-28. That’s when Presque Isle celebrates the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest.

Why a balloon festival every August in Aroostook County’s most populous city? In part, it’s to honor the area’s notoriety in ballooning history.

On August 11, 1978, the Double Eagle II lifted off from a Presque Isle field, and six days later touched down near the town of Evreux, France, becoming the first hot air balloon to make a transatlantic crossing. The balloon was piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman. A memorial to the Double Eagle II liftoff was dedicated in Presque Isle in 1981. (Sadly, both Abruzzo and Anderson died in later flying accidents.)

On September 14, 1984, Joseph Kittinger became the first person to fly solo in a hot air balloon across the Atlantic. He started his journey in Caribou. Kittinger was the guest of honor at the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2009.

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