Have a high flyin’ time at balloon race

Published 12:05 am Sunday, October 12, 2014

It’s that time of year again when the temperatures drop, fall is in the air, and all ages look forward to that magical weekend…the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

This year marks 29 years that festivalgoers have embraced colorful hot air balloons, renowned musicians and regional foods.

Hot-air balloonists from around the country will gather Oct. 17, 18 and 19 for the heavily attended event, which has won numerous local and state awards for excellence.

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The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday as balloons light up the night sky during the Balloon Glow at Rosalie Bicentennial Gardens on the corner of Canal and D.A. Biglane Streets in downtown Natchez. The glow is followed by a spectacular fireworks show from the middle of the Mississippi River, sponsored by the cities of Natchez and Vidalia, LA and draws spectators from both sides of the river. Live music performed by local favorite, Ben Lewis & Company begins the weekend’s long festivities.

Saturday and Sunday’s events feature live performances by a myriad of well-known musicians, a children’s village, and a variety of regional foods. The entertainment lineup includes Soul Asylum, Josh Thompson, The Revivalists, Irma Thomas, Alvin “Youngblood” Hart & Muscle Theory, Hannah Belle, Pocket Change, Bishop Gun and the Concordia Parish Gifted Music Students.

The sports bar tent is always a favorite and this year the tent will feature SEC football on Saturday and the New Orleans Saints vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday, viewed on several big screen televisions.

Balloon competitions take place at 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. Flight updates are available on your mobile device by registering through natchezdemocrat.com.

Saturday, the site opens at 11 a.m. and Sunday hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Remember, no pets, ice chests or tents are permitted on festival grounds.

Ticket prices are as follows: Adults, Friday $5, Saturday, $20, Sunday, $15, and weekend passes are $30. Children ages 7 to 12 are Friday, $3, Saturday, $5, Sunday, $5 and weekend passes are $10. Children ages 6 and under are free.

Advance tickets and logo items may be purchased at the Historic Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce St., or at the Natchez Visitors Center, 640 S. Canal St. Tickets may be purchased online by logging onto natchezballoonrace.com.

Interested in showing your support? Become a “Friend of the GMRBR.”

Show your support by proudly displaying our colorful window decal on your windshield or business window. Your help is greatly appreciated and will ensure the success of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, and the 30th anniversary celebration in 2015. Our unique festival site in downtown Natchez allows local restaurants, bars, hotels and businesses to reap the benefits of the area’s largest annual event. It also affords an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the balloons free of charge from vantage points on both sides of the river. However, our downtown site also presents us with our greatest challenge as we attempt to survive from year to year on the proceeds from ticket sales. With your donation and support, you can help us to keep the balloons free for all to see. Stop by the Historic Natchez Foundation at 108 S. Commerce St. to make your contribution and receive your decal. Categories range from $50 to $250.

See you at the races.


Ryan Richardson is the publicity chairman for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.