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Thurston Classic 2023

A great and free ballooning event with a long history


Last updated: by Olha Savych
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Every June, Meadville, Pennsylvania hosts the Thurston Classic Hot Air Balloon Event, open to the public. The festival doesn't provide an option of rides, but the visitors can enjoy an incredible spectacle of balloons filling the skies over Meadville. Hot air balloons take off from the Allegheny College Robertson Athletic Complex at 204 Park Avenue, usually on Friday at 7 pm and Saturday at 7 am. We recommend coming early to get the best spots with great views. Also, there's no seating, so bring your chairs or blankets. Check the official website to stay updated (see External Resources below).

History of the Thurston Classic

The Thurston Classic ballooning event got its name from the local Thurston family, who learned and practiced the sport back in the 19th century. Samuel Sylvester Thurston was the first to introduce the activity to Meadville. Despite the townspeople's skepticism, Samuel bought his first balloon in 1860. Besides ballooning for his amusement, he offered free rides to the community at fairs and 4th of July celebrations. Later on, Samuel's son Alic Thurston continued the tradition. Lastly, in 1988, a group of volunteers founded the Meadville Bicentennial celebration to honor the daring feats of the Thurstons. Joyce Stevens, in cooperation with Ted Watts, did a great job organizing the festival. That's how the Thurston Classic was born.

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