Out and About

Low clouds but high spirits Saturday at Freedom Balloon Fest

Posted May 26, 2018 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:43 p.m. EDT

— Those who rose before the sun in hopes of seeing dozens of balloons ascend in Fuquay-Varina took it in stride Saturday morning when weather kept the balloons grounded.

Pilot Mark Fritze explained that the delicate balance of silk, fire and wind depends on just-about-perfect conditions. Saturday's low clouds and fog meant a no-go.

"We don't fly if there's rain within 50 miles, or within 100 miles of a thunderstorm," Fritze said.

He and other pilots took the morning, instead, to explain some of the science to the crowds who turned out anyway at the Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park.

Wynces Barnachia drove in from Concord. He and his wife, Janet, left home about 3 a.m.

"It wasn't a bad drive, a pretty good drive," he said.

The couple had a chance to snap off one decent selfie before flights were canceled.

"It's a bummer that there is no flight today, but I agree with the FAA: Safety comes first," he said. "I'm coming from a military background, so everything has to be safe, everything has to be good to go.

"We drove here for three hours," he said. "We were expecting the whole festival to happen, but I guess as a consolation prize we will be happy just taking pictures with the static displays."

Spectator Deborah Liles, too, understood the need for safety.

"The weather is not permitting it at this point," she said. "If they feel it's not good then that's just the way it is."

The Civil Air Patrol did manage to get a few flights in. With their balloon tethered securely to the ground, a few lucky cadets got the aerial view most missed out on.

Live music, balloon glow still to come

Weather-permitting, pilots will inflate their balloons and fill the field for the popular hot air balloon glow Saturday around sunset. Live music continues at Fleming Loop Park until 10 p.m.

Sunday's schedule of events includes morning competitions and tethered rides for paying customers. A decision on weather conditions will be made around 6 a.m.

There are food vendors, a church served, car show and live music throughout the day. Another glow and a mass ascension are on the slate for Sunday.

The balloon fest runs through Monday at noon, with festival grounds opening Sunday at 6 a.m.

Entry to the balloon festival is free, but there is no parking at the park. Visitors are asked to park and walk from area lots, which charge a fee.