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Natchez Balloon Festival lights up the...

Natchez Balloon Festival lights up the skies for nearly four decades

By: Courtney Ingle - October 19, 2023

The Natchez Balloon Festival has become Southwest Mississippi’s largest and most successful festival. This year’s event officially starts on Friday, October 20.

The 38th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival is scheduled for this weekend. Hot air balloons from all across the country make their way to Natchez for an event that has become ingrained in the local culture.

“It is like a homecoming,” said Carter Burns, Executive Director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “People who are from Natchez return here for this event.. Homes here have little balloons in their yards. We look forward to it every year.” 

Burns serves as a member of the Natchez Balloon Festival Committee. After nearly four decades, the festival has taken a life of its own. 

“We’ll end one festival and then immediately start planning for the next one,” said Burns. 

The Natchez Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place right in the middle of downtown. Food vendors, live music, arts and crafts booths, carnival rides, and more are set up in town. 

“We have something for people of all ages,” said Burns. Rides for the kids, all different kinds of food, and even a football tent where you can catch your favorite college game.” 

The festival kicked off in 1986 and has been hosted each year on the grounds of the historic Rosalie mansion. This has become Southwest Mississippi’s largest and most successful festival, with several repeat hot air balloon pilots. 

“We hold the festival on the same weekend every year, following the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta,” said Burns. “So many of our pilots come through Natchez on their way home.” 

While the official dates for this year’s festival are October 20 and 21, a steady stream of entertainment begins Thursday, October 19. Gates open at five for the Natchez Live at Five at the Natchez Bluff Bandstand. 

The balloon festival officially starts on Friday, October 20. There is a morning flight and an afternoon flight. The festival gates at Rosalie open at 4 pm, and festivalgoers can dine on a wide variety of cuisine from food trucks and enjoy music until the balloon glow at 6:45pm. And if that’s not enough beauty, there’s a firework show over the river at 7:45 that evening. 

A full day of activities is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 with another round of morning and afternoon balloon flights and even more live music events. There are five different concerts, offering an array of music to get just about anyone tapping their toes. Elanore Swede, Kevin and the Blues Groovers, Rumours–A Fleetwood Mac tribute, The Suffers, and Sister Hazel will perform nearly back-to-back shows starting at 12:30pm Saturday and going through 7:45 Saturday night. 

On Sunday, October 22, the balloons will make their final morning and afternoon flights to round out the 38th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival. 

For more information about The Natchez Balloon Festival, visit the festival facebook page. 

About the Author(s)
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Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.