Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — The advent of Tropical Storm Bonnie grounded flights Sunday morning at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival.
"Bonnie has arrived. She's kid of crashing our party," said Sam Parks, the balloonmeiester for the festival.
Pilots got the word that they were grounded during a briefing just before 6 a.m.
With east-northeast winds at about 9 mph and sprinkles beginning to fall over Fuquay-Varina's Fleming Loop Park, Parks made the call to cancel competitive flights for the morning.
"We look at the weather, we use a lot of data, and we make a decision that is best for the pilots," he said.
Breakfast vendors served up hot coffee and sweet and savory treats for those who braved the weather, and the scheduled activities on the ground will proceed Sunday. The main morning event is a non-denominational religious service at 10 a.m. More food trucks, the craft beer and wine garden, merchant village, military displays and kids' rides will all be in operation, and live music is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
The balloons get another chance to fly in the early evening. Parks said pilots would be briefed on the weather update at 5:30 p.m., when a decision would be makde about the planned 6:30 p.m. mass ascension and the availability of rides for visitors.
"Even if we can't fly, there are all kinds of possibilities," Parks said.