WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival organizers prep for crowds, traffic
Posted May 5, 2016
Updated May 26, 2016
Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — A huge turnout last year at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival in Zebulon led to traffic gridlock, but this year organizers say they have a plan to better battle the masses.
The four-day festival, which features hot air balloon rides, races and glows, is moving to Fuquay-Varina this Memorial Day weekend. Organizers said they are expecting about 80,000 people.
This year, people attending the festivities will not be able to park at the festival location - Fleming Loop Recreational Park. For a fee, attendees can park at one of four designated areas outside of town, and a portion of that money helps to support a variety of military organizations and charities including AMVETS Service Foundation, US Veterans Corp and MMIA.
A shuttle will transport people to the festival. Organizers hope this plan will help alleviate significant traffic backups.
"Once your there, we have a tram system that allows you to circulate through the Fuquay and Varina sides of town to enjoy everything our host community has to offer," said organizer Brian Hoyle.
Organizers have also added more food, entertainment and activities, as well as two events downtown all weekend.
Naomi Riley, the Fuquay-Varina downtown revitalization association director, said she hopes people will see all that her town has to offer.
"Anybody who comes out to Fuquay-Varina, once they leave, we hope they will come back and come downtown," she said.
The 2016 WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest begins May 27 with a mass ascension of all participating balloons at Flemming Loop Recreational Park followed by a balloon "glow" just after sunset.