- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Shawn Raya has been coming to the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest for as long as he can remember - as long as the balloon festival has been held.

So, rain and dark skies preceding last week’s media night preview didn’t scare him off in the least.

“My dad brought me to the first one when I was a baby,” said Raya, an Oxford resident who’ll be flying the Sullair balloon at this year’s event.

The 30th annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest returns to Howell on June 27 to 29, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (https://bit.ly/1lZn7H0 ).

Forty-three balloons, with pilots from throughout Michigan as well as Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee are scheduled to compete.

If the event is fun for the thousands of people who attend each year, it might be even more fun for the pilots.

“I know this is something they talk about all year,” said Nancy Johnson of Howell, a nine-year Balloonfest veteran whose balloon, Mardi, was imported from New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras.

As a local resident, she’s proud not only of the event, but of the support its received from the community.

“It’s great that we can have something like this here,” Johnson said.

Balloon launch and fly-in times are as follows: June 27, 6 to 8 p.m.; June 28 and June 29, 6 to 8 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

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Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, https://www.livingstondaily.com

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