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Arts and Entertainment Friday, Mar. 29, 2013 8 years ago

Hot air balloon rides -- yes, please!

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by: Matt Orr

Florida Wine and Balloon Festival in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch - April 4-7, 2013

Join us as we "Take to the Skies."

When the 23-year-old Florida Winefest welcomes guests the first weekend in April, there will be a catalog of exciting new programs to choose from, including opportunities to see and experience glorious hot air balloons. The four-day, fun-filled "party with a purpose" will feature its storied Winemaker & Wine Dinners and debut two new Balloon Glow Dinners, a Smokin' Hot Cigar Dinner and the signature Grand Tasting, Brunch & Charity Auction. All proceeds are donated to children's charities in the Sarasota, Venice and Bradenton area, to which this annual event has contributed more than $7.7 million to date.

For die-hard Winefest fans and those who want to see what it is all about, plan to attend the new Outdoor Festival at the Lakewood Ranch Premier Sports Campus on Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7. For the first time this year, professional balloonists from around the country will bring in 22 colorful hot air balloons to take the Winefest event to a real new level! Balloon rides will be available at sunrise on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7. For the more timid, tethered rides will also be available (all rides depend on favorable weather conditions.)

For those seeking a more grounded experience, join the epicenter of rolling culinary talent with gourmet food trucks and continuous live music performed by a roster of Sarasota and Bradenton's favorite musicians. While noshing, peruse an assortment of cars provided by Suncoast Motorsports and visit the local arts and crafts participants. A special Kid's Zone will be open for the youngsters from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.  Fun for everyone---and admission is just $10 for advance purchase and $15 day of the event, including parking (children under 10 for free). Tickets are available online as well as at the gate.

Guests are encouraged to bring chairs and/or blankets to sit on the grass to enjoy the live music, fantastic food and "balloon glow." Plan to make a day of it.

The Friday, April 5 Consumer Tasting and the Grand Tasting, Brunch & Charity Auction will be held at the Van Wezel under an elegant tent on Sarasota Bay.

Those interested in the traditional wine and winemaker dinners, Balloon Glow Dinners, the Smokin' Hot Cigar Dinner, the Grand Tasting, Brunch and Charity Auction or an al fresco wine tasting are encouraged to buy tickets online. Tickets to these events are not available at the Festival.

For full information on the entire array of events, visit www.floridawinefest.org for ticket purchases. Prices range from $10 to $225.

Please call Sandy Loevner, Volunteer Event Coordinator at 941-952-1109 with any questions.

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