Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — Despite the threat of wind, Friday evening plans came together perfectly for the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival.
After strong winds threatened to ground balloons, the crowd was treated to a mass ascension as hot air balloons took to the skies for about an hour before returning for the nighttime glow.
Under the stars, dozens of hot air balloons put on a spectacular light show and the balloon glow proved to be a crowd pleaser at Flemming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina.
Earlier in the day though, the attention turned to the meaning and focus of Memorial Day and the festival.
“My brother, Army Sgt. Brett Gornowitz, at 27 years old, lost his life while serving in Afghanistan,” said Cassandra Cranston.
Cranston was among the Gold Star families honored during Friday’s opening ceremony.
For the Augusta family, who lost their son, Sgt. Eric Hernandez, the day was about remembrance.
“It’s a day of remembering and rejoicing their lives because they can’t do it anymore,” John Augusta said.
The Gold Star families are a unit no person wants to be a part of because the cost is so high. Isabel Carrasquillo’s twin sons both served in Iraq, but only one came back alive.
“On a day like today, it’s sad, but at the same time I look at my son and said at least God left me the other one alive, you know,” Carrasquillo said.
As the crowds were awed by the colorful and majestic hot air balloons, Gold Star families want everyone to take time over the Memorial Day weekend to marvel at military lives served and lost.
“It’s about remembering all the loved ones who gave their lives so we can stand here and do this,” June Augusta said.