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A glowing good time: balloon glow draws large crowd

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Selina Rutherford sits on her father Cole’s shoulders as they watch the hot-air balloons around them light up during Friday night’s balloon glow on the bluff

NATCHEZ — The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race may not evoke the shrieks of laughter and wide-eyed attention for adults that it did when they were children, but one local couple says their 3-year-old daughter has breathed life into the race for them again.

Selina Rutherford’s eyes lit up at Friday night’s balloon glow as she sat atop her father’s shoulders to watch the balloons fill the bluff with fiery color.

For more photos from the weekend’s balloon race click here.

“Where does the fire come from,” Selina asked her father, Cole Rutherford as she pointed to the nearby jester balloon.

Cole said he and his wife, Robin, have been coming to the balloon race for years, and Robin said Selina has sweetened their love of the Natchez tradition.

“Since we’ve been bringing her, I think she has really brought new life to it for us,” she said.

After a seven-hour drive from Missouri, 6-year-old Ethan Hawkins was having the worst day of his life. But it quickly turned out to be the best day of his life when he arrived on the bluff for the balloon glow.

“This is the coolest thing I have ever seen in my whole life,” he said watching two pilots light their burners in the balloons.

Ethan’s grandfather Jeff Hawkins was equally as impressed with the balloon glow as his grandson.

“I’ve never seen them air up a balloon before, and I’ve always wondered how they inflated it,” he said. “It’s just fantastic.”

Eight-year-olds Elaina Walters and Olivia James of Laurel have always wanted to see hot-air balloons up close.

“I can’t believe how big they are,” Walters said.

James said she has seen photographs of hot-air balloons, but she never imagined seeing one in person.

“Wow,” she said as a nearby balloon lit up. “I’ve seen them in pictures before, but never in real life. They’re so pretty.”