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Shutdown couldn’t stop balloon texts

As the nation kept its eyes on Capitol Hill wondering if Congress would rescue the country from default, The Natchez Democrat newsroom was dealing with another kind of government shutdown this week.

While the U.S. Senate and House volleyed proposals to end the fiscal crisis in Washington, another set of regulations were going into effect Wednesday.

Not as important as a global economic meltdown, newly enacted revisions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act threatened to pull the plug on The Democrat’s annual Great Mississippi River Balloon Race text alerts.

The much-loved Do Not Call Registry is part of this act that was passed in 1991. Stricter text messaging rules went into effect Wednesday, including a prohibition of solicitation text messages sent between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

For the past few years, The Democrat has alerted residents and racing fans where and when hot-air balloons take off. It has been a popular service each balloon race season.

So you can imagine our dismay when we were notified by our text-messaging provider that morning balloon race alerts would not be available due to the new restrictions.

After many emails and phone calls, I am happy to report the balloon race text crisis has been averted. After further review, balloon race text alerts don’t fall under the definition of solicitation messages. Instead, they are like weather alerts and news alerts the company determined.

So if you want to hug your pillow a few more minutes this weekend instead of dragging yourself out of bed to stare bleary-eyed into the morning sky, sign up for The Natchez Democrat balloon race alerts by going to the homepage at natchezdemocrat.com.

You no longer have to worry about whether it is too windy or the clouds are too low.

From this morning’s liftoff to Sunday afternoon’s landing, the newspaper will report from balloon race headquarters with up-to-the-minute information.

Text alerts are not the only way to get information about the balloon race.

The Natchez Democrat also offer two more ways to keep up with what is happening this weekend.

First, readers who don’t want to sign up for text alerts can go to The Democrat’s Facebook page. The newspaper will also be posting updates during the weekend about the races and festival events. Readers can also select “Get Notifications” under the “Like” button on the Facebook page to get updates sent to their phone.

And if that weren’t enough, readers can also visit natchezdemocrat.com for stories, photos, video and more.

They can also send photos and videos to newsroom@natchezdemocrat.com and become part of this weekend’s Web coverage.

It is the biggest festival weekend of the year and even the federal government can’t shutdown the newspaper’s  mission to get out the news about this year’s balloon race.

It’s the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race after all.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.