Third annual balloon festival kicks off next Friday

Published 8:31 am Friday, June 14, 2019

From a Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce press release:

Monica Simmons, President of the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce, announced recently that the Chamber and the Cordele-Crisp Tourism Committee are again bringing hot air balloons to the 70th Annual Watermelon Festival.

There will be tethered rides (meaning a rope will be tethering them to the ground) starting at 7 p.m. for $10 per person at Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park located at 2459 Highway 280 West, Cordele on Friday June 21st and Saturday June 22nd. Fast Passes may be purchased before the event at the Chamber for $20. Private flights are available for $225 per person by calling (813) 243-9507 or

In addition to Friday and Saturday evenings, balloons will be flying over Cordele and Crisp County in the early hours of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Mornings. “After the amazing success of last years’ event, where we saw 30 balloons take to the skies over Cordele and Lake Blackshear, we are excited to bring them back for the third year,” said Balloonmeister Ben Drennan. “This year we will have over 25 balloons flying the area.”

On Friday and Saturday evenings there will be three separate events occurring with the balloons. A portion of the balloons will inflate and fly away from the State Park, then several of the balloons left will inflate and begin to provide tethered rides to the public. Finally, as dusk approaches, the remaining balloons will inflate for a balloon ‘glow’ where the fabric portion of the balloon begins to glow as the propane burner is lit underneath it. There will be refreshments and drinks available both evenings as well as entertainment making for a wonderful event both nights for the entire family!

It is important to remember that ballooning is a very weather dependent activity. Balloons need clear skies, good weather and winds of 6 knots or less to fly or tether. In addition, all balloon flights and displays take place within a few hours of sunrise and a few hours before sunset. There are no ballooning activities in the middle of the day.

For more information go on Facebook and like the Watermelon Days Hot Air Balloon Festival page for up to date information and updates.


  • Have you ever wondered what keeps a hot air balloon flying? The same principle that keeps food frozen in the open chest freezers at the grocery store allows hot air balloons to fly. It is a very basic principle: Hot air rises and cold air sinks. So while the super-cooled air in your grocer’s freezer settles down around the food, the hot air in a hot air balloon pushes up, keeping the balloon floating.
  • A hot air balloon has three major parts: the envelope, the burner, and the basket.
    • The basket is where passengers ride. Usually made of wicker, baskets protect the occupants and are lightweight and flexible.
    • The burner is positioned above the passenger’s heads and produces a huge flame to heat the air inside the envelope.
    • The envelope is the colorful fabric bag that holds the hot air. When the air inside the envelope is heated, the balloon rises.
  • To descend, the pilot allows the air to cool and the balloon becomes heavier than air. The pilot has complete control of the up-and-down movements by controlling the heat in the envelope.
  • Once airborne, balloons just float with the wind. It is true that the pilot does not know where the balloon will land ahead of time, but that does not mean he cannot control the landing!
  • Before the balloon is launched, the pilot knows which way the wind is blowing so he knows which way the balloon will go. The air is in layers, and the different layers may be moving in different directions. Therefore, even though the pilot cannot steer the balloon, he can move up and down to find a layer of air that will allow the balloon to change direction. Some days the amount of change is very small; other days the balloon may be able to actually turn around and fly in the opposite direction!
  • During the flight, the chase crew follows the balloon. The chase crew is usually in radio contact with the pilot, and the crew’s job is to be at the landing site when the balloon touches down. This can be quite an adventure in itself! After the balloon lands, the crew packs the balloon back into the chase vehicle and everyone returns to the launch site.
  • One of the most important parts of being on a chase crew is dealing with the public. When the balloon is landing, the chase crew asks the landowner for permission to retrieve the balloon.
  • We are borrowing someone’s land every time we take off and land, so we are very careful not to disturb or damage someone’s property. We thank the landowner, and by the time the crew is leaving the landing site, most balloonists are already planning their next flight!