Natchez Balloon Festival was a great, fun event

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Natchez came to life last weekend after lying dormant through eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of people converged on the Natchez bluff Saturday, at first in the morning for the Natchez Saturday Farmers Market and then later Saturday afternoon to watch balloons fly over the bluff and the Mississippi River.

The events, part of the 35th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival, were spectacular and a welcome diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers went to great lengths this year to ensure that visitors would be able to social distance and did not hold the balloon festival’s usual concert in a limited space around Melrose as they normally would.

Instead, the balloon festival events were spread out along the whole stretch of the bluff and other events, including a concert and balloon glow events, were held at various locations throughout the city.

I ran in to former Visit Natchez and the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission Executive Director Jennifer Ogden Combs at Saturday night’s balloon glow.

Combs, who stepped down from the position on Oct. 1, said she was enjoying the balloon festival and that she was pleased with the turnout and that she had heard from several business owners that they were seeing good crowds.

Combs said she believed the crowds were fanning out more and visiting businesses and other parts of town more because of the way this year’s event was organized rather than corralling all the visitors into a limited space for one big music event.

Her observation makes sense.

James Berry, owner of Natchez Manor on Franklin Street, saw the potential early and organized a concert next to the Manor to lure visitors up to his part of town, he said, adding the bluff isn’t the only area where people can have fun.

I also ran into Scott Adams, balloon festival director on Saturday, and he noted that most of the visitors mingling on the bluff were observing social distancing guidelines and were wearing masks when they were not able to maintain social distance.

From my observations, that appeared to be the case.

That said, I am concerned that COVID-19 infection numbers appear to be rising throughout the state and nation and I do hope those precautions will have kept people from spreading the virus during the event.

Outdoors, under the sun, maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing most likely did the trick.

We have all learned to adapt and adjust to life under COVID-19 and I believe the Natchez Balloon Festival is an excellent example of the best practices under the COVID-19 precautions.

It was good to have so many visitors in Natchez on such a beautiful weekend and I’m sure the economy needed the extra boost the visitors brought last weekend.

Kudos to all who made the event such a success as well as being fun.

Scott Hawkins is the editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.