READINGTON — The fate of this year's Festival of Ballooning will come down to the wire as a self imposed deadline to sign a title sponsor fast approaches.

After 27 years, QuickChek gave up its sponsorship in order to direct it's marketing dollars elsewhere, according to festival organizer Howard Freeman. The 2020 festival is tentatively scheduled for July 24-26 at Solberg Airport but the performers and attractions need to be locked in now, according to Freeman.

"We've spoke to a bunch of people. We still have some interested parties but we have not as of yet secured one at the level we need or two or three each at a lower level that would make up the difference," Freeman told New Jersey 101.5.

On a scale of 1 to 10, he said his confidence level for making the Jan. 31 deadlines is at 5.

The price of the title sponsorship is $500,000.

Freeman said he is frustrated that people tell him how much they and their clients love the festival "but no one has stepped up and signed on the dotted line."

"Why some people have no problems to paying a healthy sum for a bowl game or a sports sponsorship but don't really understand the difference with the titlement of a festival," Freeman said, adding that the benefits of sponsorships goes beyond just the three days of the festival.

"People like PNC Bank have told us they get 95% of their benefit in the six months leading up to the festival," Freeman said.

Freeman said that Quick Chek, which credited their sponsorship of the festival for helping expand awareness of their brand, does not expect them to return for one more year at the 11th hour. The convenience store chain has said it will be back at the festival.

The event is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America with an estimated economic impact of $52.4 million.

It has raised more than $3 million for local charities and nonprofits, festival organizers have said.

Freeman said the festival would go on hiatus for the year if the title sponsorship is not taken.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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