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Balloon race fate crucial for Natchez

Published 12:07am Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race is one of the jewels in Natchez’s tourist event crown.

But if we’re not careful, the best weekend in Natchez could slip through our fingertips.

Race organizers say all of the receipts and bills from last weekend’s race have yet to be tallied, but they’re not expecting it to be a good year financially.

Poor weather conditions kept hot-air balloons from flying on Friday or Saturday of the event, which hampered ticket sales.

The worry is that because the festival is expected to have a poor financial performance this year that next year’s race will require organizers to dip into their rainy day fund to ensure the race gets off without hitch.

But what happens if next year’s race also suffers from poor flying weather and a repeat occurs?

The sad reality is that it’s possible the race could end — which would be a tremendous blow for all of the local businesses that have come to depend on the weekend as a major shot in their economic arm.

Having a successful race is vital to Natchez’s future. If having more heads at the table discussing ways to improve the race and make it more financially sound is useful, perhaps that conversation needs to begin now. Next year will be here in no time and any changes need to be decided upon and communicated early in the process.