Look to the skies this weekend over Statesville and you’ll see a familiar sight: lots of hot air balloons.
The 41st Carolina BalloonFest runs from Friday through Sunday at Statesville Regional Airport. About 30,000 people typically attend the annual event, said BalloonFest media and marketing coordinator Janet Harriman.
“We’re going to have epic, beautiful weather, so we could pass that projection,” Harriman said.
More than 50 hot air balloons and four special shape balloons will be taking off from the airport grounds. The special shapes this year include a rocket man, an owl and pussycat, a scarecrow and a pink pig balloon called “Ham-let.”
The balloons launch after dawn and near dusk when the thermal atmosphere is most stable. But tethered balloon rides of up to nearly 100 feet are available for purchase throughout the day.
There are other activities throughout the day, from entertainers on two stages to a kids area to a venue for tasting North Carolina wines and craft beers.
A portion of the proceeds each year goes to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Statesville and other local nonprofit organizations, Harriman said.
This year, BalloonFest is celebrating the 45th anniversary of local aviators Tracy Barnes and Bill Meadows making the first hot air balloon launch in Iredell County. Several BalloonFest pilots will lift off about 7:30 a.m. Friday by the first flight marker at Newtowne Plaza in Statesville, as will about a dozen other pilots from sites in the community.
Also at the event will be a “walk-in balloon” on the field near the Kids Zone, where people can walk inside the balloon while cold air is blown in, Harriman said. It’s the first time in several years that a walk-in balloon has been at the event.