Balloon race, festival starts today
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2014
NATCHEZ — A myriad of colorful balloons expect to lift off this morning, kicking off the 29th annual Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.
“We’re very excited that it’s finally here and time for balloon race,” said executive director Babs Price. “Everyone does all this work, work, work, but it really doesn’t hit you until this week that it’s finally time.”
The first flying event will be a media flight at approximately 7 a.m. that combines a leisure experience for some pilots and a balloon biathlon for others.
Email newsletter signup
Certain pilots will be paired with cyclists to create a two-person team that will compete in the event. The cyclists will fly with the chase pilots, and before each balloon lands, the pilot must throw a beanbag as close as he or she can to a 25-foot-long X the first balloon planted after landing.
The bicycle will go with the chase crew on the ground, and once the balloon lands, the cyclists must make their way back to the Natchez Convention Center.
The team with the fastest time wins. For every inch from the center a beanbag is, one second is added to that team’s time.
Temperatures for the morning flight are expected to be in the mid to high 50s with calm wind coming south and southwest at nearly 5 mph.
Throughout the day, temperatures will steadily rise to a high of 82 leading up to the balloon glow at 7 p.m. at the festival site, located at the Rosalie Bicentennial Gardens on the south end of Broadway Street.
Pilots will inflate their balloons, but not take off, giving residents a chance to see the multicolored orbs fully inflate.
Balloons will also be stationed on the Vidalia Riverfront for the annual glow.
“The glow has really become such a big part of the race weekend,” Price said. “People have the chance to walk up to the baskets, talk to the pilots and it’s just a really nice event for everyone.”
A fireworks display will cap off the balloon glow, followed by live music at the festival site by local favorite, Ben Lewis & Company to kick off the weekend-long festivities.
Saturday and Sunday’s events will feature live performances by a variety of artists and festivities and food at the children’s village area.
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.
Tethered balloon rides will also be offered on the festival grounds site from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The rides are free, Price said, but are first come, first serve.
“We’ll have five balloons out there, but you never know when some of them might have to leave to get ready for the next race or refuel,” Price said. “It’s a great opportunity for those who are unable to do a sponsorship to go up in a balloon.”
Balloon flights are scheduled for 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting.
To know where and when balloons will fly, sign up for a free text alert service that will send you balloon flight information all weekend.
Visit natchezdemocrat.com to sign up for the free updates to be sent to your cell phone.
Saturday, the site opens at 11 a.m. and Sunday hours are from noon to 6 p.m.
Additional events will also be hosted on the Vidalia Riverfront throughout the weekend.
The Mad Jax Carnival will bring rides, games and carnival food to the riverfront today through Sunday.
The first Ragin’ Cajun Gumbo Cookoff will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday including bouncers, food and family entertainment.
Musical entertainment will continue Saturday with the Back Roads Band from 1 to 3 p.m., a meet and greet with Amber Hayes, Nashville star from the movie “Cowgirls and Angels,” as well as a performance from Hayes from 4 to 6 p.m.
Festival tickets, T-shirts and other balloon race items can be purchased in advance at the Natchez Visitors’ Reception Center located at 640 S. Canal St., or at the Historic Natchez Foundation at 108 S. Commerce St.
Tickets may also be purchased at the gate as well.
No pets, ice chests, tents, weapons, illegal substances, food or beverages will be allowed through the gates.
The Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide transportation throughout the city this weekend.
The CVB will have two trolleys running free to anyone interested in riding.
The trolleys will run from 4 to 11 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The loop will be go from the Natchez Visitors’ Center, down Canal Street, right on Franklin Street, right on Rankin Street, right on Main Street and left back onto Canal Street.
The trolleys won’t have any designated stops, but those riding can pull the cord when they’d like to get off.