Entering its 25th year, QuickChek’s title sponsorship of the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank is the longest running sponsorship of any festival in the U.S.
The meeting to put the partnership together lasted all of 10 minutes.
“I had partnered with QuickChek on a uniform promotion for three years when I was director of marketing with the Nets when they began playing in Piscataway,” said Howard Freeman of The Festival Group. “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.”
“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,” added Freeman. “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. At minute eight they had a deal.
“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, who announced that this year’s Festival will take place July 28-29-30, 2017 at Solberg Airport.
From its beginnings at a local truck stop on Route 78 in Bloomsbury, N.J. in 1983, the event has grown into the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. A must on anyone’s list of things to do this summer, upwards of 165,000 people are expected to enjoy the majesty of 100 sport and special shaped balloons taking to the skies twice each day over the Hunterdon County countryside as the Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary with new balloons, fan favorite balloons and some of the biggest names in music.
“The balloon festival has proven to be a highly effective way to introduce consumers to our brand,” said QuickChek CEO Dean Durling, whose family-owned company now operates 147 fresh convenience market locations throughout New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. “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.”
Named the 2016 National Convenience Store Chain of the Year and the 2016 Food Service Innovator of the Year, the Whitehouse Station, N.J. chain has utilized the Festival to introduce new products and services to Festival-goers such as its in-store Q Cafés which offer 60 varieties of handcrafted hot and iced cold drinks; as well as testing menu boards, graphics, cash registers and computer systems over the years.
On site, attendees can enjoy new menu items or savor their favorite subs, sandwiches and wraps in QuickChek’s 2,700-square-foot air-conditioned store. Families also have the opportunity to relax together in between balloon ascensions and headlining concerts inside the company’s enormous hospitality tent.
The Festival’s impact goes far beyond what goes on in the sky that weekend.
“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, which 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.
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.
“This annual event has an amazing impact on Hunterdon County’s tourism industry,” said 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.”