Last weekend we attended the 12th Annual Chester County Balloon Festival, located at the New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenamon Pennsylvania. The festival is a non-profit event with the proceeds going to the Chester County Hero Fund and various other local community groups.  There was plenty to see and do during the weekend festival.

A majority of those who attended the festival came primarily for one reason – to witness multiple balloons ascend into the sky like a flock of migrating birds.  But Mother Nature had other plans for the weekend. Due to the threat of storms and winds blowing above the optimum, around 8 mph, the afternoon flights were all cancelled.

However, the day was filled with other activities worth mentioning. For one family, Sunday was a day a 2 1/2 years old girl, Layla Wesley, will never forget.

Layla Wesley and Jack Stull at the 12th Annual Chester County Balloon Festival

Layla Wesley & Jack Stull at the 12th Annual Chester County Balloon Festival

With her grandfather, Jack “Poppop” Stull, by her side, Layla Wesley had a ride of her life; she actually rode in the back of a real Monster Truck, named the Keystone Crusher, owned and operated by KSR Motorsports, located in Paoli, Pennsylvania

The truck towered about 12-15 feet tall. Eight seats filled the bed of the large-size Dodge pick-up truck and Layla sat snugged in the last seat with no fear. She seemed more intrigued as she studied seated area of the vehicle.  When they pulled away from the parking area, Layla’s eyes opened wide with excitement. The truck then rode up a slight embankment and onto a grassy field along the backend of the New Garden airport. You can see Layla and her Poppop holding on as the dirt and dust kicked up behind them as the oversized wheels dug in deep as they roared out of view!

Keystone Crusher

Layla Wesley & Jack Stull ride on the Keystone Crusher

It would be fair to say other kids her age would be brought to tears but not Layla.  When they returned from their short ride, she had a look in her eyes that said, “Let’s go again!”

“Layla’s favorite monster truck is Grave Digger but she can name quite a few of them,” stated Poppop Stull. It seems Layla’s love of Monster trucks has been passed down from her mother, Jaclyn Wesley, who attended Monster truck races at the old Spectrum over 25 years ago.

Layla’s grandmother, Kathy Stull, told us that her granddaughter’s “love” of monster trucks goes far beyond just the toy trucks. “Layla loves to wear monster trucks t-shirt under whatever she wears.”

The cancelled balloon flights could not dampen Layla and her grandparents day. Sunday at Chester County Balloon Festival will be one of the very special memories.


Other noteworthy information about the balloon festival

The people working the festival are like one large family and they have deep pride in this event and without them the festival would not be possible. We enjoyed meeting and talking to so many people. We are already looking forward to next year.

There were many craft and merchandise vendors at the festival with the likes of Crystal Climbers, Nottingham Bonsai,, Damsel in Defense, Heavens Honey, Sticky Bucket Maple, and many more. The full list of vendors at Balloon Festival can be found here!

And what’s a festival in Chester County without the lunch trucks? There were many tucks from around the region. The mixed and tantalizing aroma from all the various food trucks lured you in for the kill. If you were a vegetarian at this festival you must have had a difficult time walking through the gauntlet as various smells assault your senses. The temperature danced around in the high 80s so it was no surprised to see the longest lines for Rita’s Water Ice.

Inside the main hanger, there was a display called the “Future Aviators USA” which focuses on the kids. They pride themselves on the motto, “Creating an aviation experience to remember.” They specialize in after school programs, summer camps, team building, and leadership development programs.

And for the adults, and teens, there was a booth set up for those interested in learning to fly. Members of the New Garden Flight Connection, a local flight school, were there to answer your questions about becoming a pilot. If you are interested in learning more then you may want to check out the New Garden Flight Connection.

There were many things for the children to do, like the moon bounces, go-karts, zip lines, face painting, gem mining, sand art, and even a mechanical bull. There also were the helicopter rides, fire truck parade, “Jet Car” powered by a GEJ-85 jet motor that produces 6000 pounds of thrust and monster truck rides.

More photos from this year’s Chester County Balloon Festival can be found here: