Zebulon, N.C. — Organizers said the inaugural WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival was a success beyond their expectations.
“We exceeded the bottom end of our projected attendance on the first night,” lead organizer Brian Hoyle said Monday.
That big success didn't come without its share of problems. Hoyle said the attendance overwhelmed the plan.
“We just didn't know because it's the first time we've had an event of this size, scale and scope in over 25 years,” he said.
Traffic ground to a halt Friday night on the congested country roads around the Bennett Bunn Plantation in Zebulon, one of two sites for the festival.
Hoyle's team tripled the number of buses by Saturday for a smoother flow.
At Spring Forest Park in Raleigh, the second venue, thousands of people waited in huge lines for tethered balloon rides.
Hoyle also said many people expressed disappointment about arriving after most of the activity had taken place. He says the times on the schedule were windows of opportunity for the balloon pilots - and attendees need to keep that in mind for the next time.
Organizers are taking a look at all aspects of the next festival -- including bigger venues.
“The crowd (at Spring Forest Park) was very patient with us and demand was large enough, maybe we'll look at different space for that as well,” Hoyle said.
He wants disappointed attendees to give the festival another chance.
“We hope you'll give us a little flexibility, and we invite you to come back next year,” Hoyle said.