Big crowds gather for balloon glow

Published 12:05 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat Jayla Ward and her father Shawyn Ward drove from Meadville Friday evening to bask in the glow of the balloons at the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race Friday evening.

Natchez — Hundreds of people drifted to the Fort Rosalie festival grounds Friday as the smell of funnel cakes and the sight of inflating hot-air balloons of every color filled the night horizon on the bluff for the first night of festivities of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

Pilots Robert and Sally Lupton traveled to the race from Albuquerque, N.M., for their 24th year at Natchez. Their balloon, “Lady Jester,” was one of 10 that lit up the bluff during the glow.

Robert said he thinks people really enjoy the glow and getting to be so close to the balloons.

“It’s like we’re Chinese lanterns or Christmas trees in the park,” he said.

Sally said the Natchez race is her favorite, and the balloon glow is when it all kicks off.

BEn Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat Gracie Harrigill looks up at the balloons covering the grounds at the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race Friday evening. Robert and Sally Lupton’s “Lady Jester” balloon dances in over head.

“Right now, tonight, this is when everything starts. It’s great.”

Five-year-olds Micaela Schexnider and Alex Fontenot were ready to pop with anticipation for the burst of colors during the glow and fireworks.

“I want to see a million of thousands of colors everywhere,” Schexnider said jumping up and down.

“I really like to watch them filling up,” Fontenot said. “I’m really excited about the colors in the balloons.”

Dona Fontenot and her family brought the girls from Lafayette, La., to the race for the first time this year.

ACCS eighth graders Alexis Hennigton and Brooke Smith have been coming to the balloon race since they were both about 6.

“We come with our friends,” Hennington said. “We love to watch the balloons glow and the food and the band, too,” Hennington said.

Andy and Jennifer Tuccio grew up in Natchez and traveled from Brandon to bring their two children, Riley, 8, and Drew, 3, to visit their grandparents, Anthony and Marty, and enjoy the race.

“I love it because they’re doing the same stuff we did growing up,” Jennifer said.