Sky High Family Fun
Red River Balloon Rally takes flight
The nexus of hot air switches from Washington, D.C., to LSU in Shreveport on July 12 and 13 when the fourth annual CenterPoint Energy Red River Balloon Rally drifts in.
Presented by Louisiana Feed Your Soul, the event features two days of entertainment wrapped around the U.S. Regional Hot Air Balloon Championship. About 30 balloon pilots are expected to compete in the skies over Shreveport and Bossier City. According to a press release from the Shreveport- Bossier Sports Commission, Friday will be Faith and Family Night presented by First Bossier featuring performances by First Bossier Worship Band, Dillan Cate, Phillip Cole, Austin Lanier, The Hootens, Building 429 and KB. Saturday will be Louisiana Saturday Night presented by Wray Ford with regional Hispanic band, los b-ok, an ’80s music
Broadmoor Branch Library North Shreveport Branch Library Hamilton S. Caddo Branch Library Broadmoor Branch Library North Caddo Branch Library (Vivian) Hamilton S. Caddo Brach Library West Shreveport Branch Library Hamilton S. Caddo Branch Library experience with The Molly Ringwalds, and a Brooks and Dunn tribute performance by Neon Circus. Additional Saturday night performers include Spectra Vamp, Phillip Cole, Lance Thompson and Dillan Cate.
Brandy Evans, vice president of communications for the Shreveport Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, said, “There has been a lot of time and effort to build the entertainment this year compared to other previous years.”
There will be some unique shapes for the gas bag aficionados in the area this year, including Yoda, Darth Vader, a pirate ship, Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Yellow Bird. Attendees will find food vendors, retail vendors, tethered balloon rides, a kite-flying demonstration, skydiving demonstration, and the wellknown Kidz Fun Zone, not to mention fireworks show by Pyromania Fireworks.
“It’s grown every year,” Evans said. “I’ve watched how excited the community gets about this. And I think, because it feels like such a family and multigenerational kind of experience, it feels like a safe and fun environment out at LSU-S, that it feels open and inclusive. I think it ticks all of the boxes, and I think that’s why each year it has grown. Plus, the organizers, Kelly Wells and his team, they do a fantastic job of keeping people entertained all day and thinking about what’s new, what’s next,” she said.
Young and old alike will have the opportunity to see what ballooning feels like as tethered balloon rides will be available both days of the event. On Friday from 9:15 to 11 p.m., there will be a showing of the animated film “Up” at the rally, Evans added.
Tickets for the festival are $10 for ages 6 and over if purchased in advance at participating Super 1 Foods and Brookshire’s stores. Tickets at the gate are $12 for ages 18 and up, $10 for ages 6-17, $10 for military and free for ages 5 and under. For the complete schedule of Red River Balloon Rally events and to purchase ticket packages and single tickets online, visit www. RedRiverBalloonRally.com or the Red River Balloon Rally Facebook page. Upto-the-minute entertainment information is available there. Importantly, you can also learn what you can bring onto the LSU-S campus. You should note that all items will be searched upon entry and electronic wanding will be utilized for all attendees. General parking at the site will be $5.
For eager observers, the balloons competing in the rally will be seen throughout Caddo and Bossier parishes each morning starting at about 6:45. Viewers can see the balloons flying in their daily competitions around the community from July 9-15. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, the balloons can be seen at LSU Shreveport for an assigned competition target attempt.
For the curious, the average balloon cost for a small, two-person craft is about $22,000. For balloons to carry pilot plus four passengers, the average cost is $35,000 to over $45,000. This price includes the envelope, gondola, fuel tanks and instruments, but does not include any ground support equipment or chase vehicle, according to one ballooning website.
U-Ken-D-Ballooning said the balloon bag, or envelope, is made of reinforced nylon fabric. It weighs about 1.3 ounces per square yard. “The envelope is treated with a polyurethane coating to make it more airtight and to help the fabric withstand the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The pilot and passengers ride in a gondola (or basket) that is made of woven wicker, which is both strong and flexible. The gondola is connected to the envelope by stainless steel suspension cables.”
Evans describes what folks can expect like a holiday. “Balloons are like Santa. They just make people happy. People love to see them in the sky. They call our visitor center all week; they want to know where to see them. We’ve heard of people having balloon watch parties where they gather their neighbors and family and friends to watch the balloons early in the morning.”
Balloon watchers or just folks in pursuit of a means to get up, up and away this July will apparently have plenty of opportunities when the rally floats into town.