Fuquay-Varina business owners hope Balloon Fest visitors drift into town
Posted May 23
Updated May 24
Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — While last year’s WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest was a sight to see in Fuquay-Varina, some downtown businesses were left wondering why they didn’t see a surge of customers.
As Fuquay-Varina prepares to host the event for the second time this weekend, organizers are tweaking festival plans to help local businesses reach the tens of thousands of people expected to visit the festival.
Joseph Fasy, the owner of Hook & Cleaver Market on Broad Street in Fuquay-Varina, said he’s hoping he won’t see a repeat of what happened in 2016.
“We were told there was going to be this large influx downtown,” Fasy said.
Fasy said he ordered a lot of food to sell to festival-goers, but between people reserving parking spots downtown to sell for the event and a park-and-ride shuttle system that ferried people between the event and distant parking lots, businesses ended up seeing little uptick that weekend.
“We actually had one of the worst weekends that we’ve had since we’ve been open, two and a half years now,” Fasy said.
Balloon Fest organizer Brian Hoyle says his team has a new plan this year.
Instead of utilizing park-and-ride lots miles away from the festival, attendees will park in one of many nearby private lots.
“One thing we learned…there was a whole lot more parking closer to the venue than we estimated,” Hoyle said.
Hoyle says there will be more than 6,000 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk to Fleming Loop Park.
Once attendees reach the grounds, they’ll be able to easily walk downtown, which is about 1 mile away.
The Town of Fuquay-Varina recently completed a sidewalk connection between the event site and downtown, and they’re hoping that too will help connect people to downtown businesses.
“One of the things we’d like to make sure happens is that people get to experience the Fuquay and Varina traditional downtowns,” Hoyle said.
Fasy says he’s happy with the changes.
“The city, the organizers, (they) listened to the community and made some changes this year. I feel like we’ll be able to capitalize on it,” he said.
The WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest starts Friday afternoon and runs through the holiday weekend. Events include hot air balloon rides, food, music, crafts and more at Fleming Loop Park.