Nearly two dozen brightly-colored hot air balloons are getting ready to take to the skies for the 4th Annual Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival August 24-25. Launches are scheduled to take place at approximately 6 a.m. from the Hot Springs Municipal Airport both Saturday and Sunday, but there are plenty of other reasons to check out this free, family-friendly event. We talked with Olivia Mears, Director of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, for her take on some of the can’t-miss attractions at this year’s festival.

  1. Pilot Cards. Kids are encouraged to collect cards from each of the pilots operating the hot air balloons. As long as they obey instructions, they can go right up to the balloons and talk to the pilots, who will provide them with collectible cards. It’s a great opportunity to see the balloons up close and learn more about what it takes to pilot them through the skies.
  2. Night Glow. On Saturday night, the tethered balloons will be inflated and their gas burners turned on after dark, providing a colorful display synchronized to music. Olivia compares it to “dancing lanterns.” This event takes place at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport and begins at dusk (approximately 7 p.m.).
  3. Free Kid Zone. Following Saturday morning’s launch, a Kid Zone opens at 10 a.m. at Centennial Park downtown. Children of all ages will enjoy giant inflatables, bubble fun, a magic show, balloon animals, games, and more. Admission is free and food and beverages are available for purchase.
  4. Art Walk & Chalk. Local artists will be displaying (and selling) their creations throughout downtown. Those feeling artistic themselves can pick up chalk from various businesses and express their creativity on the sidewalk.
  5. Sidewalk Sales. Downtown merchants will be offering some great bargains on the sidewalk in front of their stores. If all that shopping is making you thirsty, a beer tent in Centennial Park will offer alcoholic beverages to those 21 and older. A variety of artists will be performing live music throughout the day.
  6. Walk-In Balloon. Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons is sponsoring a walk-in balloon at The Mammoth Site from 9 – 11 a.m. Visitors will be able to step inside a “retired” balloon (no heat is needed to inflate) to see what the interior of a hot air balloon looks like.

Please keep in mind that all balloon events are weather-dependent. You can check the latest information on balloon launches, schedule changes, and more by calling 605-745-6974. Hope to see you there!

WORDS BY MARK PETRUSKA
PHOTOS BY JESSE BROWN NELSON