Balloons light up night over Natchez

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 1999

More than 70 balloons lit up the Miss-Lou Friday night as part of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race’s annual balloon-glow.

&uot;It was a beautiful night – perfect conditions for a glow,&uot; said Sally Durkin, crew coordinator.

This is an improvement from last year, when the wind made it difficult to keep the balloons and baskets steady on the ground.

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This year, there were no problems.

&uot;It went beautifully,&uot; Durkin said. &uot;It was really beautiful being on the Natchez side and looking at the Vidalia side.&uot;

Rachel Crocker, a crew member for pilot Mark Bowie’s balloon team agreed this year’s glow was easier on the crews.

&uot;(It’s) not a problem at all,&uot; she said of this year’s glow. &uot;We’re just standing around. Hopefully there is not going to be too much wind this weekend.&uot;

Crocker and her father, John Crocker, have been crewing for several years.

Each balloon has a crew to help load and unload the balloon.

Many of the crew members and pilots form close bonds and stick together through years of ballooning, Crocker said.

&uot;You build that friendship between the pilot and crew,&uot; Crocker said. &uot;You always seem to go back to the (same) pilot.&uot;

The balloon race began Friday morning with a media/sponsor balloon flight and ended with the glow, a fireworks show and music by the band These Days with Jewel Bass.

Events continue Saturday with balloon flights at 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and with more music and festival activities.

From 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday there will be street dance with music by the Krackerjacks.

As an added attraction this year is a carnival set up by Phoenix Carousel Company of Tallahassee, Fla.

Natchez Hungerford, director of the Natchez Children’s Home, helped coordinate the carnival.

&uot;Everything that is raised here – the children’s home gets a percentage,&uot; she said.

With the support of race officials, the children’s home has been trying to include more children’s activities into the festival, Hungerford said.

The carousel company specializes in small-sized festivals and this is the company’s first visit to Mississippi.

&uot;The neat thing about this is that’s it fun even for the adults,&uot; Hungerford said.

The festival continues today and Sunday.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate.