Zebulon, N.C. — After two weather briefings, pilots took flight for the second scheduled day of competitions at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest early Sunday.
Wind conditions were a concern again Sunday due to a jet stream that helped ground the previous day's competitive tasks. Sunday's task involved finding a target and dropping a weighted sack as close to it as possible.
Balloons lifted off before 7 a.m. at Bennett Bunn Plantation in Zebulon. The sky was a sea of balloons as the wind pushed them above Bunn Lake and nearby subdivisions.
Getting close enough to a target to even have a chance to drop the sack is about luck and the wind, pilot Anthony Seeger said.
While Seeger can control the up and down of his balloon, the Carolina Twist, he can't control the wind which determines which way direction the balloon goes and determines how close the balloon will be to the target.
Lifting the balloon up and down to catch different wind speeds and directions, Seeger navigated his balloon too far left of the target. But the flight was a peaceful one, nevertheless.
WRAL's Out and About got to ride along with Seeger. The ride was quiet, peaceful and as close to floating on a cloud as you can get. Pilots flew above and underneath one another and even held conversations amid the clouds.
While no balloons got close enough to hit the target, pilots did have fun doing stunts like the "dip and dash," in which a balloon basket dips into water and then out again. Once a balloon hits the water or trees, it is ineligible for the competition.
Seeger and his crew helped the balloon land safely in a wheat field at Clyde Pearce Road, just over five miles from our starting point.
Balloon Fest continues in Raleigh, Zebulon
The WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival continues Sunday with tethered rides and glows scheduled in Zebulon and at Spring Forest Road in Raleigh.
Gates will open at 3 p.m. at both locations, but tethered rides will not begin until around 6:30 p.m. The night will end with a balloon glow, where crews light up their balloons like holiday ornaments. That is expected to start around 8:15 p.m.
If you go early, there will be meet and greets with pilots, in addition to other activities. Zebulon boasts face painting, bounce houses and other fun. Spring Forest Road will have food trucks.
Parking for WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest
Bennett Bunn Plantation in Zebulon
Park at the home of the Mudcats, Five County Stadium, 1501 N.C. Highway 39. Parking is $10 and proceeds go to The Raleigh Jaycees. There will be a shuttle running to the Bennett Bunn Plantation, which is about two miles away. Note: Shuttles will start at 6 a.m. Saturday through Monday so people can watch the balloon races.
There is limited on-site Premium Parking for $30/car (cash only) with a portion of proceeds going to The Raleigh Jaycees.
Spring Forest Road Park in Raleigh
Enjoy free park-and-ride shuttle service courtesy of Triangle Town Center and GoRaleigh Transit. Simply park near the entrance of the mall closest to Men's Wearhouse at Triangle Town Center. There's a GoRaleigh Bus shelter nearby.
All handicapped guests going to BBP should first go to Five County Stadium; if they have no ability to get on to a shuttle, they will be issued a $10 pass to park on-site at Bennett Bunn. Note: On-site parking is still not close to the activities. Attendees should plan accordingly to have assistance and take their time getting there.
If heading to Spring Forest Road Park, there is plenty of wheelchair accessible parking at Triangle Town Center for free. All Go Raleigh busses are wheelchair accessible. There is a paved surface surrounding the park.