7th Annual Watermelon Days Hot Air Balloon Festival Takes to Skies In March

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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Back for the seventh year, Balloons will once again fill the skies over Cordele and Crisp County this March thanks to our Presenting sponsors Best Western of Cordele, Inspired Wealth Planning/Ricky Smith and McDonald’s of Cordele. Thirty Hot Air Balloons and their crews from all over the country will descend on Cordele March 24-26 as part of the festivities. Balloons will fill the sky over Cordele each morning starting on Friday, March 24th. On Friday and Saturday Evenings, the balloons will be at the Georgia Veterans State Park for flights over the Lake Blackshear area and will return to the park for a Hot Air Balloon Glow beginning at dusk. Tethered rides will be offered each evening at 5:00 p.m. as well for those who want to experience the balloons first-hand but want to stay tied down to the ground.

The balloon glow or night glow can be one of the most exciting and most photographed parts of the festival. The balloons are set up at sunset in the launch area and are inflated as if they are going to take off, but instead remain static on the ground. The propane burners are lit periodically to keep the balloons inflated with hot air. Since the event occurs in near darkness, the balloons glow like huge light bulbs or Chinese lanterns, giving a spectacular display for the audience. The crowd is able to walk amongst the balloons and meet the pilots and crews, enjoy the balloons, and take some amazing photographs.

“Over the last seven years, balloons have become synonymous with Cordele, and we are always excited when they return because we get to share our great city with all of them, and they bring much needed tourism revenue with them,” said Chamber President Monica Simmons. There are crews and spectators that travel across the country from March to late October each year following the hot air balloons, as they fly in all the different festivals. It is not unusual for them to return every year to see the balloons again. “Cordele has quickly become one of more sought after locations for Hot Air Ballooning,” said balloonmeister Ben Drennan. “We have balloons coming this year from Vermont, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and all over the Southeast. They come because of the friendly landowners and favorable flying areas, but they come back again and again because of what Cordele has to offer.”

Back by popular demand, on Friday morning, the balloons will be making presentations at all of the local Crisp County Schools and Crisp Academy. Some of them will take flight and some will remain on the ground to allow the students and teachers the opportunity to see them up close and personal and ask questions about how they operate. This is all a part of the STEAM teaching efforts going on throughout the local schools, highlighting the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics in everyday things and hobbies.

Crowd Favorite Special Shape Balloons will be on display at the Balloon Glows each evening as well. ‘Sunny Boy,’ ‘Laska The Flying Unicorn,’ and ‘Mr. Winter’ will all be on display this year. Sunny Boy is a 140 foot tall ray of sunshine with bright eyes on one side and wears cool shades on the other. Mr. Winter is a 150 foot tall snowman complete with a carrot for a nose and jaunty top hat! Sunny Boy and Mr. Winter reside year round in Cordele with pilot/owners Ben and Liz Drennan and always like to put on a show! Laska is the friendly unicorn creation of Tom and Jessica Warren with Aviation Ranch who have made Cordele their vacation home in the past year.

All balloon activities are weather dependent; clear skies, no thunderstorms in the vicinity, and light winds (less than 7 knots) on the surface and calm winds above the ground. For more information about the festival you can follow the page ‘Watermelon Capital Hot Air Balloon Festival’ on Facebook. The page will be updated each day with real time information regarding weather, launch status, and where the balloons will be flying each morning! Tethered rides as well as Hot Air Balloon Flights are available during the festival.


Balloon Launches: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Mornings March 24-26th.

                                    Time: Sunrise

                                    Location: Various Locations around Cordele

Balloon launches:    Friday and Sunday Evenings March 24 -25th

                                    Time: Approx 6:00 p.m.

                                    Location: Georgia Veterans State Park

Balloon Glows and Tethered Rides : Friday and Saturday Evenings March 24 – 25th

                                    Time: Tether Rides begin at 5:00 weather permitting
Balloons Start to Inflate around 7 p.m. Glow Begins at 7:30

                                    Location: Georgia Veterans State Park

For More Information:

Social Media: Watermelon Capital Hot Air Balloon Festival on Facebook

For booking information visit Lake Blackshear Balloons www.flylakeblackshear.com

Questions and Inquiries: Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce  229-273-1668