Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Surrounded by balloon spinners and other holday decorations, New Orleans resident Randi del la Gueronniere looks at the merchandise at Darby’s on Main Street. Area merchants are preparing for this weekend Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.
Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Surrounded by balloon spinners and other holday decorations, New Orleans resident Randi del la Gueronniere looks at the merchandise at Darby’s on Main Street. Area merchants are preparing for this weekend Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

Movie officials, residents ready to get on up during balloon race

Published 12:05am Thursday, October 17, 2013

NATCHEZ — Movie officials in Natchez preparing to film the upcoming James Brown biopic will really be getting on up this weekend for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

Executive producer Trish Hofmann said movie officials jumped at the chance to sponsor one of the dozens of balloons flying this weekend in the annual event.

“The producers found out there was a balloon available to sponsor and got very excited,” Hofmann said. “Everyone is looking forward to having a ‘Get on Up’ balloon.”

The film, titled “Get on Up,” will depict the life of the “Godfather of Soul” from when he was nearly 5 years old and will extend to 1993. Tate Taylor, who directed the Academy Award nominated film, “The Help,” will direct the film.

Production crews for the film have been setup in Natchez for several weeks, and technicians and film crews are slated to arrive in early November to begin filming, Hofmann said.

Getting involved with community events such as the balloon race, Hofmann said, was an important decision for the movie officials.

“We feel really strongly about coming into a town and being guests in that town,” Hofmann said. “So we want to work very closely with that community and see how we can be a part of the community anyway we can.”

The movie officials will be sponsoring Joe McKay’s balloon “Bettlejuice.” McKay is a pilot from Sharon.

“We don’t really know a whole lot about the race, but we’re hoping it wins,” Hofmann said. “Everyone is making plans to be here for balloon race weekend.”

Part of Taylor’s original announcement of the film included a guarantee that every frame would be shot in Mississippi.

Filming in Natchez is expected to last through December. Crews and movie officials will then relocate to Jackson for further filming.

The film’s premiere is set for Oct. 17, 2014.

Balloons are scheduled to lift off at 7:30 a.m. Friday for a media flight. Gates will open at the Rosalie Bicentennial Gardens on the bluff at 6 p.m. Friday for the 7 p.m. balloon glow, which will be followed by fireworks at 7:30 p.m. and live music from Cheap Tequila from 8-10 p.m.

The balloons are scheduled to take flight again at 7:30 a.m. Saturday for a competitive flight. Festival gates will open at 11 a.m., and live music from Red Hot Brass Band will start at noon, followed by The Ramblin’ Letters, Shannon McNally.

Weather permitting, the balloons will fly at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Bonerama will start the music up again at 5:30 p.m., followed by Anders Osborne at 7:30 p.m. and headliner Cowboy Mouth at 9:30 p.m.

A balloon flight is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Gates will open at noon, and the Concordia Parish Talented Music Program will perform at 1 p.m. and Brent Cobb at 2:45 p.m.

The final flight is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and country music artist Neal McCoy is set to take the stage at that time.

Tickets are available at the Historic Natchez Foundation, the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or at the gates this weekend.