Balloon race draws crowd of hundreds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2000

Hundreds gathered on the grounds of Rosalie Saturday to enjoy music, carnival rides, food and fellowship — and watch hot-air balloons from the bluff — at the 15th annual Great Mississippi Balloon Race Festival.

And as in past years, festivalgoers came from far and near to take part, such as Marvin and Laura Wilson, who drove from their home near Mobile, Ala., to the festival.

&uot;Actually, we found out about the festival because we met a guy while we were vacationing in Hawaii, and he was wearing a balloon festival T-shirt,&uot; said Marvin Wilson, lounging in the shade while listening to onstage band King Konga.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;It sounded like fun, so we decided to drive over for the next one, … and we’ve had fun, mostly listening to music and eating.&uot;

More than 60 hot air balloons took part in races at 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and those at the festival site had a front-row seat to see balloons in the latter flight. Balloon pilots traveled from throughout the United States to take part in the race.

All around, groups of friends and family sat in lawn chairs and on quilts, sampling the variety of fair food and drinks from the festival’s concession stands and listening to the music.

Saturday’s music featured the Earth Angels, King Konga, the Rock for Real Revue with Mark Lindsay, Top 40 artist Eddie Money and, for that night’s street dance, Patrick Henry and the Liberation Band.

&uot;That’s why I’m here — to listen to the music and to spend time with my stepdaughter,&uot; said Evonne Holt of Natchez.

Smaller festivalgoers could ride carnival rides and sample food from concession stands in a children’s area hosted by Phoenix Carousel Co., with proceeds benefiting the Natchez Children’s Home.

&uot;We rode a little bit of everything,&uot; said Brian McMullen of Gulfport, accompanying daughters Cassidy, 5, and Courtney, 4, in the direction of the children’s area yet again.

Festivalgoers also browsed several merchandise booths selling such things as jewelry and inflatable toys.

Today, the festival will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Live entertainment will be featured, including Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, Vince Vance and the Valiants, and Al &uot;Little Fats&uot; Jackson.