Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — The WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest will have a new home next year. The festival, which features hot air balloon rides, races and glows, is moving to Fuquay-Varina, organizers announced Wednesday.
This year's inaugural festival was held at two locations - Bennett Bunn Plantation in Zebulon and Spring Forest Road Park in Raleigh. Large attendance numbers on the first night at Bennett Bunn created traffic congestion on the country roads and caused many festival-goers to miss the mass ascension of balloons. The Spring Forest Road Park location saw very long lines of people waiting for tethered balloon rides.
Following the festival, lead organizer Brian Hoyle said he and his team would be looking for ways to improve all aspects of the festival, including seeking out a larger venue.
Based on 2015 attendance, organizers and town leaders are planning for an audience of about 70,000 visitors during the course of the festival.
Hoyle plans to announce the move during a Veteran’s Day Remembrance event Wednesday in downtown Fuquay-Varina.
The 2016 WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest begins Friday, May 27, with a mass ascension of all participating balloons at Flemming Loop Recreational Park followed by a balloon "glow" just after sunset.
Weekend events include competitive balloon flights, tethered rides, food and drink, live local and regional musicians, field games for all ages, a Kids Zone with bounce houses and face painting, a Chef's Challenge and a shopping village sponsored by the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce. Events will be held at Flemming Loop Recreational Park and throughout the downtown area.