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Gin Blossoms, Restless Heart headline Balloon Race festival

NATCHEZ — The music schedule for the Great Mississippi River is blooming with recognizable talent this year.

And headliners the Gin Blossoms are leading the way.

The race executive director Babs Price said the growth in popularity the festival has experienced in recent years, has given the festival committee the ability to book nationally known music acts.

The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race is Oct. 15-17 this year.

Gin Blossoms, Price said, are just the most recent “big act” the festival has brought to town.

“It all works hand-in-hand,” Price said. “People are interested in coming out to see these acts and that gives us the ability to bring in great music each year.”

The Gin Blossoms will take the stage at approximately 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. The band gained popularity in the mid 1990s with hits like “Until I Fall Away,” “Follow You Down” and “As Long As It Matters.”

“Gin Blossoms is a group that I’ve loved for a long time, and I’m sure other people have too,” Price said.

Ingram Hill, a Memphis-based rock trip, will open for Gin Blossoms at approximately 7:30. The band’s 2004 album “June’s Picture Show” featured two Billboard Charts radio hits, “Will I Ever Make it Home” and “Almost Perfect.”

“Ingram Hill is one of my all-time favorite bands,” Price said. “I’ve probably asked to book them for the past five years. They have great music that I think the crowd will really like.”

Sunday is once again focused on coutry music that Price said is popular among locals.

Performing Sunday will be local favorite Avery Michaels and Exit 209 as well as Restless Heart, a Grammy-nominated country act.

Restless Heart boasts a song book that includes 26 songs that hit the country music charts.

“As soon as I was sent links to some of their songs, I thought ‘They are really good. We want them,’” Price said.

Friday night entertainment will be provided by the Red Hot Brass Band beginning at 6 p.m., and Black Bayou will take the stage at approximately 8 p.m.

Music will be playing practically all day with local talent and others filing on to the stage one after another.

“The music has gotten better every year,” Price said. “As the music gets better, the popularity of the festival has grown. We expect to have good crowds, weather permitting, all weekend this year.”

Two flights are planned for Saturday and Sunday, and Friday will feature a morning flight and an evening balloon glow.

All events are weather permitting.

“We’re hoping the festival brings out a lot of people, more people than in the past,” Price said. “The music is going to be good and if the weather cooperates, the balloons will be great too. This ought to be a great year.”

Price said while the festival is still more than two months away, the public is already exicited.

“We have more hotels now than we had just a few years ago,” Price said. “That has really helped bring out the crowds. Back in the early days we heard stories of people filling their houses with people sleeping on the floors. Now, from what I understand, most of our hotels are already booked up.”

The full schedule of musical acts can be found online at www.natchezballoonrace.com.

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