What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Pleasant, but breezy, weather helps kick off WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest

Posted May 11
Updated May 26

— Hot air balloons will take to the sky Friday during the opening day of the WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest, a four-day festival at Fuquay-Varina's Fleming Loop Park.

The festival grounds open at 2 p.m. with food vendors, a craft beer and wine garden and carnival rides. The opening ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. followed by the mass ascension and an after-dark "basket glow." Live music will start at 8 p.m.

After days of severe weather, rain and thunderstorms, a high pressure system squatting in the Southeast will keep the skies clear—save for the dozens of balloons that will rise this evening.

"Expect just an absolutely gorgeous day today," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "I wish we could just copy it for the next few days."

The high temperature will reach 82 degrees on Friday, but will begin to back off around the same time as the mass ascension and will pull back more, to around 75 degrees, for the balloon glow at 8:30 p.m.

All balloon activity is contingent on the weather.

A portion of the festivals's proceeds help support Project Uplift USA, a North Carolina non-profit founded to uplift military families and serve communities through service and volunteerism.

Parking changes

As with last year, there is no parking on-site at Fleming Loop Park. But unlike last year, there will not be official parking lots and shuttles to the park.

The festival is providing a list of public and private parking lots (including handicap accessible options) within a short distance from the entrance on Judd Parkway. Even the closest parking lot can be up to a half mile from the entrance. Some lots are free, while others charge a fee. Money does not go to the festival.

Free public parking lots and on-street parking as listed by the Town of Fuquay-Varina are shown in blue. Orange listings are Paid lots. Yellow lots require a permit in advance. Other details in the table below. Provided for information purposes only.

Best times to see balloons in the air

Friday through Sunday nights there will be mass ascensions of balloons after 6 p.m., followed by tethered rides and balloon glows.

WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest

On Saturday through Monday mornings, hot air balloon pilots will be competing (weather permitting). This could contain flying into or out of the venue and dropping something on a target. Competition flights will start around 6 a.m. and wrap up by 9 a.m. So if you want to watch, arrive by 6 a.m. and follow social media to find out if balloons are taking to the skies.

Want to take a ride

Tethered balloon rides are being offered each evening. The balloon is anchored to the ground limiting the rides to 30 to 40 feet in the air. Like all balloon flights, tethered rides are conducted wind and weather permitting. It costs $20 per ride and is cash only.

What else is happening

When balloons aren't in the area, there are still things to do at Fleming Loop Park. There will be a merchant and craft village and vintage amusement park rides (bring money to ride). On Saturday and Sunday, the craft beer and wine garden will open at noon. Live music starts at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and around 11 a.m. Sunday.


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