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Hot Air Affair: Balloons, parade and much more

Rubber Duckie, piloted by Bob O'Brien of Waupaca, sponsored by WESTconsin Credit Union flies at a Hudson Hot Air Affair event. This year's event starts Feb. 1. Submitted photo

It's all about the balloons—and there will be plenty of them to see in Hudson during the annual Hudson Hot Air Affair, presented by WESTconsin Credit Union-Hudson. In 2019 the event is celebrating the 30th year of winter fun with this hot air balloon rally and winter festival in Hudson.

It is old home week for many of the returning pilots as the Hot Air Affair is an annual stop on many of the balloonists' schedules. Over 30 balloons will be joining us this year, some old friends with returning favorites and some new pilots and balloons. A list of balloons and their sponsors is available at HudsonHotAirAffair.com/balloons.

This winter festival kicks off Friday night, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in downtown Hudson, with the Torchlight Parade, featuring blasts of flames from the balloon units, marching kazoo bands and "Pirates Fly'n the Croix-ribbean" themed units. A fireworks display, sponsored by Andersen Corporation, will begin immediately after the parade at Lakefront Park.

Hot Air Affair retail button promotion begins at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 1. Pick up a Hot Air Affair instant prize button at the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau office or at participating businesses. Check your number at participating stores during Hot Air Affair and you could be an instant winner!

Shop at Abigail Page Antiques, Angel's Pet World, Applebee's Restaurant, Art Doyle's Spokes and Pedals, Brick's Neapolitan Pizza, Chapter2Books, Et Cetera, Grace + Grit, Grand Fête, Hop & Barrel Brewing Company, Hudson Flower Shop, Knoke's Chocolates, La Rue Marche, Marnie's Games, Gifts & More, The Postmark Grille, The Purple Tree, SEASONS on St. Croix Gallery, The 715, Suri Oaks Exquisite Alpaca Fashions, and Urban Olive & Vine.

Check out musical offerings both Friday and Saturday nights at several locations throughout Hudson including: Smilin' Moose, Dick's Bar & Grill, Urban Olive and Vine, Ziggy's, and Plaza Lounge/Hudson Bowling Center.

E.P. Rock Elementary School will be the hub of activity on Saturday, Feb. 2 with the balloon launches. The first hot air balloon launch is scheduled for sunrise at 7:35 a.m. If the balloons don't fly in the morning, there is an optional flight at 3 p.m. and the final launch is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 3 in the morning at 7:35 a.m. Please know all of the balloon inflations and flights are weather dependent. Flight updates and weather conditions are posted on the Hot Air Affair website and on Facebook.

The popular Moon Glow or Field of Fire will be at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Hot air balloons light up the dark, so bring your camera for this spectacular event. In the event of windy weather, Moon Glow becomes a Field of Fire.

Saturday's schedule at E.P. Rock School will include the ever-popular smoosh boarding contest, the Up, Up & Away 5K fun run/walk, kite flying, a meet and greet Captain Jack (the Jack Sparrow pirate from Captain Jack Entertainment), a Pirate's Treasure Drop fundraiser, ice carving and more.

Inside EP Rock School, a concession area and marketplace will offer food, beverages, souvenirs and a craft fair. Come in out of the cold to warm up and enjoy entertainment and more.

Enjoy a Birds of Prey presentation, featuring the naturalist from Carpenter Nature Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Angel's Pet World.

New this year is the Saturday evening Swashbuckler's Soirée at Madison Avenue Wine & Spirits from 7-10 p.m. Caribbean inspired cocktails, rum sampling and Caribbean influenced food offerings, live music, come meet Jack Sparrow! Free admission. Cash food and bar.

Another favorite is the Hudson Boosters Benefit Bingo at Hudson House Grand Hotel. This event runs 2-4:30 p.m. and again from 6:30-9:30 on Saturday, Feb. 2. Play bingo and help raise money for youth sports programs in Hudson. Cash bar.

Sunday, Feb. 3 activities include the Lake Mallalieu Ice Fishing Derby for kids age 6 to 12 will be from 2-4 p.m. There is a Chili Cook-Off at Big Guys BBQ from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Angel's Pet World will host a pet costume contest with prizes for the best costumes.

Hudson Hot Air Affair is a weekend packed full of winter fun. So, grab your boots and mittens, bundle up, and join the Hot Air Affair celebration with "Pirates Fly'n the Croix-ribbean."

The Hot Air Affair brochures with event details are available at local businesses and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau office. Visit their website at www.HudsonHotAirAffair.com for details and a complete event schedule. The Hot Air Affair Facebook page for the latest events and news.