The New Haven Area Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for the 2012 Balloon Festival, held in conjunction with the 23nd annual Pepsi Hot Air Balloon Race Saturday, Sept. 22. The event is free and open to the public.

The festival grounds open at 1 p.m. at New Haven City Park along Highway 100.

Lineup for the annual parade, with the theme “Let’s Go Retro,” begins at 12:45 p.m. at the New Haven Elementary School parking lot on Elton Street.

The parade starts at 1:30 p.m., featuring themed floats based on decades like the 60s, 70s and 80s. It will wind through the streets of New Haven before crossing Highway 100 to New Haven City Park.

The parade route is Elton to a left turn on Miller, left on Maupin, left on Emmons, left on Douglas, and will cross Highway 100 at the American Legion onto Park Drive. The parade will continue along Park Drive to the city park. Winning floats will be announced at 2:30 p.m.

Children’s crafts are planned from 1-4 p.m. with children creating and decorating miniature hot air balloons from helium balloons. Children’s crafts are sponsored by Mercy Hospital. Also sponsoring the festival are Fidelity Communications, New Haven Dental Care and Keeven Heating & Cooling.

Two bounce houses, a Wacky Bouncer and a Wacky 18-foot slide, are open from 2 to 7 p.m., manned by members of the New Haven FBLA. Playground equipment also will be available. A DJ will provide music all day on the park grounds.

Food and refreshments are served from 1 p.m. to closing. Fare includes pulled pork, burgers, loaded nachos, hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, kettle corn and plenty of Pepsi products.

Hot air balloons will lift off sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., depending on wind conditions. The race routinely features many of the same balloons that participate in the Great Forest Park Balloon Race the previous weekend.

The on-stage portion of the Little Mister and Miss New Haven Contest begins at 5:30 p.m. Children must be between 3 and 7 years old and reside in the New Haven or R-2 School District. To enter, contact chairperson Linda Faretta at 573-645-8686.

Little Mister and Miss winners will be announced after the contest.

To conclude the evening, the New Haven Youth Fair committee will sponsor a dance at the Legion Hall featuring the band Pilot Grove from 7 to 11 p.m. There is a $5 cover charge for the dance. Everyone is welcome.