By Ken Mink, Editor
TOWNSEND, Tn. – Hot air balloons seem to bring out the kid in all of us: Seeing many giant colorful balloons dotting the landscape, tugging at their tethered ropes tends to peak anyone’s excitement.
And more than 10,000 people are expected to experience such an adventure here Aug. 18 when ballonists display about a half dozen hot air balloons at the second annual Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival . (more about hot air balloon festivals nationwide listed below)
The balloons will be on display at the Townsend Visitors Center, 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway (the site is on U. S. Highway 321 about 10 miles from Maryville and 30 miles south of Knoxville).
The spectrum of the colorful balloons against a backdrop of the vast Great Smoky Mountains provides pleasing views (especially, say officials, during the sunset hours of approximately 7-9).)
The finale for many of these balloon festivals is the “night glow” or “balloon glow” event. At predetermined signals, the pilots blast the propane burners, releasing a burst of fire into the balloons. The balloons “glow” like huge fireflies or Chinese lanterns, often accompanied by fireworks, creating a magical sight.
Lots of food, drinks (via a food truck) and craft displays and sales, live entertainment and wine tastings will be available throughout the festival hours of 3 p.m to 9 p.m. Those attending are encouraged to bring portable seating and/or blankets. The festival is free, but parking costs $25 ($20 if bought in advance from the event web site at gsmballoonfest.com
Wine tasting will be provided by Nine Lakes Wine Country, along with local craft beer.
For a fee, spectators (adults and children) will be permitted to get into the balloon baskets for a short tethered lift approximately 30-50 feet into the sky.
“We’re thrilled we had such a successful year in 2017 and excited to bring the Hot Air Balloon Festival back for another year,” said Blount County Partnership Director Tourism Kim Mitchell stated in a press release. “ We had about 10,000 here last year and expect even more this time, if we have our usual good weather.”
There are many hotels available in the Townsend/Maryville/Knoxville area. For more information on housing, food and events in the area visit www.smokymountains.org/plan-your-trip
Balloon festivals are held each year nationally and internationally throughout the year, all over the USA and the world. We have updated a calendar for 2018 balloon festivals (the ones with actual dates have been confirmed and the others just list the month that they were in this year), to be held in 25 states across the USA. The list view is sortable by balloon festival name, state, and date.
The largest hot air balloon festival in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, takes place in October each year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 9 day long Balloon Fiesta has over 500 participating balloons each year.
2018 Balloon Festivals in the USA
This is a calendar of all of the USA 2018 Balloon Festivals (other than the Townsend event) that we have been able to confirm to date. Of course, you should still double check their websites and social media profiles to make sure the event hasn’t been canceled.
*Billed as the oldest and most well-attended FREE Hot-Air Balloon Event in the World.