Statesville, NC–The Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville, North Carolina, is a combination of fried food, music, people, and floating pieces of art which carry people through the sky.
It is the 45th year of the festival, and its many sponsors, including McDonald’s and Wells Fargo, helped pay for many types of entertainment. From October 19 to 21, the festival was open with inflatables, a climbing wall, bungee jumping and even a walk-in balloon for kids. For adults, there was a craftbeer station, a fried food section and two live bands. These activities were just side events, however, not the main attraction.
A hot air balloon is a large contraption which has a tarp built to capture heated air. A fire burns underneath an often brightly-colored cover, and the tarp then begins to rise up into the air. The balloon is made with a basket underneath to hold people and pilots. Some of the particularly brave guests chose to go up in one of the balloons alongside an experienced flyer.
Barbara McKinley has been a pilot at the Carolina BalloonFest for three years and has been flying hot air balloons for even longer. For her, it’s a family event. McKinley’s sister also flies a balloon at the event, and her father was one of the event founders.
For McKinley, it isn’t just about the family or money, it’s the feeling you get from being up in the air, being able to touch the sky around you without barriers. “To me, this is flying. When you’re on an airplane, you have all the glass and metal and everything that you’d need,” McKinley said, “but when you’re flying a balloon, it is so peaceful and calm. You just feel free.”
Not only is it appealing to pilots, many people come out to watch the patterned balloons ascend into the sky. Crowds from all over North Carolina come out with blankets or lawn chairs to watch with wonder the mass ascension of balloons.
By Zoe Hiemstra, Staff Writer