What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Sunday worship service, other activities continue despite rain at Balloon Fest

Posted May 29

— I arrived at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival by 9 a.m. on Sunday morning with the intent of enjoying some of the craft booths and food trucks before sitting in for the 10 a.m. non-denominational worship service.

The rain was coming down in a steady drizzle when the shuttle dropped me off at Fleming Loop Park - the festival grounds - but event volunteers and vendors were there to welcome me despite the overcast skies. Today marked the third day of the festival, and vendors were setting up their decorated stands and displaying their goods amidst the threat of rainy weather from Tropical Depression Bonnie.

"We're optimistic," said one of the booth vendors. "It has been good weekend."

The crafts and wares - which ranged from jewelry to children's clothing to home decorations - were beautiful and interesting, and many featured hot air balloon designs that were created just for the WRAL festival. Those have been a hit this year, I was told.

Unfortunately, those hot air balloon designs were the only balloons at the festival on Sunday morning. Due to Bonnie-induced rain and wind, the competitive balloons flights that were scheduled to start at 6:15 a.m. had been canceled earlier that morning.

That could change by Sunday evening, though, when pilots and festival staff will decide if the weather conditions will be safe enough for the festival's planned 6:30 p.m. flights.

Since seeing hot air balloons would be out of the question for the morning, I grabbed coffee and some strawberry and whipped cream-topped donuts from the Dusty Donuts food truck (which were way too delicious) and made my way over to the large VIP tent, where the worship service (a combination of both music and a sermon) would be held.

"The service was going to be on the stage," said a member of The Gathering Community Church. "So we just moved all the band's sound equipment under the tent."

The move was necessary, because, sure enough, the rain grew heavier as the band began to play. Whether people were under the tent for shelter or for the service, the music was a hit, and the seven-member band had people on their feet the whole time. The songs were inspirational and upbeat, although one song that mentioned "flooding God's love down on us" shouldn't be taken literally, said Pastor Joe, who delivered a 30-minute sermon after the band finished their set.

Before his sermon, Pastor Joe thanked the men and women who served our country and talked about the importance of remembering them and the sacrifices they made - and carrying that appreciation into the future.

This year was the first year that The Gathering Community Church, which is located in Fuquay-Varina just 10 minutes down the road from the festival, had participated in the event. When I spoke to the pastor after his talk, he explained to me that the church first got involved with the WRAL Balloon Festival when they volunteered to help pick up trash at the event.

"We love to serve the community, and this happened by great coincidence," he said.

After walking around the festival just a bit longer (I may or may not have picked up some tasty dumplings from the Chirba Chirba food truck before I left), I headed for the shuttle that would take me back to my car. The rain had turned into a drizzle when I left, but the crafts and food booths were all set up and ready to go, and live music was scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

So, if you love a fair atmosphere and are not worried about a little rain, bring your boots, ponchos and umbrellas to see the festival for yourself!

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