The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and PNC Bank invite New Jersey students in Grades 2 through 12 to take part in the 16th annual PNC Bank “American Patriot Essay Contest” by writing a short essay on the topic “What the American Flag Means to Me.”

The Grand Prize winner will receive the opportunity to take two rides in a hot air balloon. The first is a tethered ride in a gigantic, 75-foot-tall hot air balloon in front of their classmates at their school in June. The second will be a ride in one of the 100 hot air balloons at this year’s 37th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank July 26-28 at Solberg Airport in Readington.

The special VIP Grand Prize package includes a hot air balloon ride for two, four Blue Sky Club VIP tickets, and the opportunity to meet one of this year’s concert headliners, which in the past have included Disney teen sensations such as the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.

This year’s winning student’s immediate classmates will each receive one complimentary general admission ticket to the festival. Second and third-place prizes consisting of festival admission and merchandise will be also awarded. The winning student’s teacher and school principal will each receive two Blue Sky Club VIP tickets.

All teachers in the state who submit groups of 15 essays or more on behalf of their students will receive two free general admission tickets to the festival regardless of whether one of their students submits the winning essay.

The increasing popularity of learning about one’s ancestry played a major role with last year’s Grand Prize winner. Peter Clear, a fifth-grade student from John Hill School in Boonton, wrote about being a descendant of William Brewster who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower.

The essays must be 100 words or less. They will be judged by a panel of representatives from PNC Bank and the balloon festival. Winning essays will be selected based on creativity, poignancy and clarity with consideration given to the grade level of the contestant. Contestants are not required to be U.S. citizens.

Entries should be mailed to Essay Judges, QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, 363 Route 46 West, Suite 200, Fairfield, NJ, 07004, or emailed to pncessay@balloonfestival.com. Entries should include the student’s name, home or school address, home or school telephone number, grade, age, school name and the name of their teacher. The deadline to enter is May 1, 2019.

Additional information may be found at balloonfestival.com/pncessay.

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