READINGTON — The annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will fly high for the next several years thanks to a new title sponsor.

The New Jersey Lottery picked up the sponsorship in a multi-year deal after QuickChek gave it up after 27 years.

"The Lottery has been involved on a lower level for 20 years but now we're going to help them amplify and activate their 50th anniversary message and on into the future," festival executive producer Howard Freeman told New Jersey 101.5.

An 80-foot-tall cake-shaped hot-air ballon, which Freeman said would be "the world's largest birthday cake," will help commemorate the anniversary during the festival. Freeman said during the festival, non-winning instant-win lottery tickets will be good for discounts on festival tickets and an area where the lottery's Quick Draw Keno-style game will be available for play.

Freeman had set a deadline of Jan. 31 to sign a title sponsor. During the negotiation process, Freeman said several companies expressed interest.

The lottery benefits the state by contributing to the public employee pension system for teachers, police and fire personnel and other public employees but is operated independently by a company called Northstar.

Tickets are on sale now at the festival's website, balloonfestival.com, with a $26 discount from the regular price through Friday, March 6. A bigger discount is available by signing up to receive email alerts from the festival.

This year's festival is scheduled for July 24 to 26 at Solberg Airport in Readington.

NJ Lottery Executive Director James A. Carey (left) and balloon festival Executive Producer Howard Freeman (Festival of Ballooning)

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

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