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No balloons but a lot of sun, fun on last day of balloon festival

 

NATCHEZ – Sunday was a windy but beautiful day as the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race wrapped up its 33rd year of festivities.

The wind was brisk enough to keep balloons from taking flight for the second day in a row. However, that didn’t stop people from enjoying themselves on the Natchez bluff, where attendees heard the sounds of Brint Anderson and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

Andy Wilson and Desi Malan, both of Moab, Utah, were having a good time Sunday afternoon. This year was Malan’s first time to the festival, but Wilson, a Natchez native, said the festival weekend was a great time despite the balloons not being able to fly Saturday and Sunday.

“We know how the weather works,” Wilson said. “We spent most of the time with family and on the bluff and at Rosalie. We saw the balloons on Friday.”

“The music was amazing,” Malan said.

Jim Leake, of Waynesboro, Va., was enjoying the music at what was his third festival, but Leake said he came for cycling.

“I just came for riding, and my visit just happened to coincide with the festival,” Leake said. “I saw the balloons take off Friday.”

Sisters Mia Arnault, of Oxford, and Maycee Arnault, of Louisville, were at the festival for the first time. Both said they made the trip to Natchez to see the balloons.

“It’s pretty neat,” Mia Arnault said. “I’m just ready to see some balloons fly.”

“We came for the balloons,” Maycee Arnault said.

The balloons flew Friday morning for a hare-and-hound flight that isn’t part of the official race. Afterward, light rain and then the brisk winds kept the balloons grounded for the official races on Saturday and Sunday.

Balloonmeister Bill Cunningham said this was not the first time for the event to go without a race.

“We had a few where we didn’t have a race,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said it still was a great weekend.

“Ballooning is a great sport, and you meet a lot of people over 30 years, and they all come back. It’s like a family reunion,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said that most Natchez residents understand how weather can affect the flights. Cunningham said easterly winds Sunday were too strong for a safe flight.

Babs Price, interim director of the balloon race, said the music lineup was the highlight of the weekend.

“The weather and wind hindered the flight, but today was a beautiful day,” Price said. “Turnout yesterday was really good, especially for Anders (Osborne) and everybody loves Irma (Thomas).”

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