Artist says 2020 Natchez Balloon Festival inspired winning poster, T-shirt design

Published 8:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

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NATCHEZ — The winner of the artwork contest for the 2021 Natchez Balloon Festival poster and T-shirt, Debora Novarini, said her first opportunity to attend the balloon festival was last year during a pandemic.

While there were no carnival rides or concerts on the typical festival ground outside Rosalie, as there would be on a typical year, Novarini said she was amazed at how many people came to support the event anyway and saw nearly 30 hot air balloons staggered across the Miss-Lou.

The balloons had their early morning flights and festivities continued into the night with the balloon glow. This is what inspired her winning T-shirt and poster design, which showcases the transition from “daydream to nighttime scene,” she said.

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While last year was her first opportunity for her to attend the Natchez Balloon Festival, Novarini said as a native of Long Beach she and her family have visited Natchez many times, so much that Novarini’s brother wound up meeting his soulmate, Julia Fredrick, here. Their daughter and Novarini’s niece celebrated her first birthday underneath the balloons of the 2020 festival.

“Even with COVID and everything, we were still there celebrating,” Novarini said. “That is my Natchez connection. It has always been a place that has had some sort of special meaning to me.”

With her sister-in-law’s family here, Novarini said she knew how special the balloon festival is, especially to those who live in Natchez. When she was told of the art contest, Novarini wanted to do a good job with it and make them proud, she said.

“We live in Houston now, but all of my sister-in-law’s family is still there. When she sent it to me, I knew that I’ve got to treat this right. I got to really think about it and make everyone proud. … I was really surprised (to win). Knowing I wasn’t from there, I didn’t know what my chances were. … I was super ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it.”

Novarini studied graphic design at Mississippi State University and is now employed as a designer Gensler, a global architectural firm.

She describes herself as a “huge nerd” with other interests in video games, comics, painting and craft-making.

Carter Burns, the executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, said, “The Balloon Festival committee was overwhelmed with amazing submissions from many talented artists for the artwork competition but this design stood out.”

“We congratulate Debora on her winning submission and look forward to working with her on this year’s poster and t-shirt,” Burns said.

The Natchez Balloon Festival will be held October 15 through 17 on the grounds of Rosalie in downtown Natchez. The music lineup for this year’s festival is expected to be announced early this week, Burns said.

More information on the Natchez Balloon Festival can be found at