PINE MOUNTAIN — Callaway Gardens hosts its 17th annual Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival starting Friday.
The weekend kicks off with the Friday Night Balloon Glow and continues all weekend long. Participants can watch balloons in flight or hop in a basket for their own tethered balloon ride.
Saturday will have family-friendly events, including live music, beach activities, a kids’ zone and more. There also will be a classic car show, disc dog demonstrations, a pyrotechnic skydiving demonstration, as well as a 5K race and triathlon event.
A “Mastering Night Photography” course is also on tap, along with drink specials and sports on the televisions at the Beach Bar as well as some of Atlanta’s top-rated food trucks throughout the festival. The weekend will cap off with a final balloon glow Sunday night on Robin Lake Beach.
Hot air ballooning is dependent on calm winds and good weather. Balloon flights and tethered rides typically take place one hour after sunrise and two hours before sunset.
Paid special event admission to Callaway Gardens is necessary to participate in events. Tethered balloon rides are an additional $10 per person. General admission prices apply Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and special event admission is half-price after 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday is half-price special event admission before 9 a.m. Monday is free 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Gardens is also seeking volunteers to be part of chase crews. Chase crews follow balloons in flight and recover them once they’ve landed.
Crews assist pilots with inflating, launching, “chasing” and packing the balloons.
A good pair of gloves and a little time are all that are needed. In return, crew members learn about ballooning and have access to the balloon festival and all the great activities and attractions at Callaway Gardens.
Balloons fly wherever the wind blows and usually travel five to seven miles before landing. Chase crews maintain radio contact with a balloon pilot. Once the balloon has landed, the crew assists with retrieving a balloon and its passengers and escorting them back to Callaway Gardens.
Approximately 150 volunteer chase crew members are needed. Crew members must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be able to volunteer at the Balloon Glow on Friday night and for both flights on Saturday and Sunday. Each balloon needs a four- or five-member crew.
Anyone interested in becoming a chase crew member and can be there for all three days, or who has questions about the event, may contact Andy Brown, Callaway Gardens’ recreation director, at [email protected]
For those who live within five to seven miles of Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens, officials are warning that balloons may land on their property. Landowners who have a hot air balloon land on their property will receive a certificate to complete and return to Callaway Gardens, entering them in a drawing for free dinner for two at a Callaway Gardens restaurant.
Once a balloon has landed, chase crews drive to the landing site and park as close as possible to the balloon for loading and return to Callaway Gardens.
Landowners who do not want a balloon or chase crew on their property should place a large white sheet marked with a red “X” in an open area that can be easily seen from the air.
For additional information, please contact Andy Brown, Callaway Gardens’ recreation director, at [email protected]
Reach the LaGrange Daily News at 706-884-7311.