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WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — QuickChek Corp.'s title sponsorship of the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 25th year in 2017.
The first festival took place at a local truck stop on Route 78 in Bloomsbury in 1983. Since then, the event has grown into the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, according to the convenience store retailer.
This year, the festival is estimated to welcome 165,000 visitors, who will watch 100 sport and special-shaped balloons take to the skies twice each day over the Hunterdon County countryside. The festival will celebrate its 35th anniversary with new balloons, fan favorite balloons and musical artists.
"The balloon festival has proven to be a highly effective way to introduce consumers to our brand," said QuickChek CEO Dean Durling. "It is a showcase event for us. It allows us to deliver our message of providing restaurant-quality food at a great value, of having the best cup of coffee in the market and demonstrating our dedication to customer service."
Reflecting on QuickChek and PNC Center’s partnership, Howard Freeman of The Festival Group, said the meeting to put the partnership in place lasted 10 minutes.
"I had partnered with QuickChek on a uniform promotion for three years when I was director of marketing with the [former New Jersey] Nets when they began playing in Piscataway," Freeman reflected. "So when John Korff and I acquired the Festival of Ballooning, the first person that we met with was Bob Page, who was president of QuickChek at the time. We quickly spelled out the main components that we knew met with QuickChek's goals: family, community, and benefiting those in need."
He added: "We felt we could help get their name out as they continued to grow, that we could help drive people into their new stores by having them as our exclusive retail ticket outlet. It would also be an excellent vehicle which could have a real impact on our communities."
Page planned on giving Freeman and Korff 10 minutes to state their case. Within eight minutes an agreement was reached.
"We saw this as being more than a three-day event, the opportunities were there for this to be a partnership where they could offer their products and engage their vendors while providing savings to consumers throughout the year," said Freeman.
QuickChek uses the festival to introduce new products and services to attendees, like its in-store Q Cafes, and testing menu boards, graphics, cash registers and computer systems. On site, attendees can enjoy menu items like subs, sandwiches and wraps from inside QuickChek's 2,700-square-foot air-conditioned store.
"It is also our biggest team building event," said Durling, noting some 500 team members from senior management, support staff and store personnel volunteer each year at the festival. It has raised more than $2.6 million for local charities, non-profit organizations and children’s hospitals since The Festival Group and QuickChek came together in 1993, he added.
The Festival has an economic impact of $42.7 million on the state's travel and tourism and local economies, and brings positive recognition to the state through the worldwide media attention it receives, the c-store retailer stated.
"This annual event has an amazing impact on Hunterdon County's tourism industry," said New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. "It is an uplifting, fun experience that brings joy to everyone who attends and should be on your plans on what to do this summer. I encourage both residents of New Jersey and surrounding areas to attend and experience this showcase event."
This year's festival will be held July 28, 29 and 30 at Solberg Airport.
For more information on the festival, click here.
Whitehouse Station-based QuickChek operates 147 convenience stores throughout New York's Hudson Valley, New Jersey and Long Island.