A first festival is coming to Aiken this spring.
The Aiken Hot Air Balloon Festival will be held at the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds, 561 May Royal Drive, on Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1, said Jeremy Kwaterski, director of Hot Air Balloon Management, which organizes the event. The decision to come to Aiken was made after a similar event took place in Grovetown two years ago.
“We were recommended to try the Aiken Fairgrounds,” he said. “So we decided to do a new show in Aiken. We’re very excited about this because we think it’s a good draw from South Carolina and Georgia.
From craft and retail vendors to food vendors to rides, the festival will have something for all ages, Kwaterski said. He said there would be a bouncy house and described the rides as a carnival. Entertainment will be provided by local artists.
As for the start date of the hot air balloon festivities, it depends entirely on the weather.
“We will begin the hot air balloon festivities as soon as the winds cooperate,” he said. “Normally it’s late afternoon, but sometimes it can last all day, we don’t know. We plan to put the balloons out around dusk, but (sometimes) we can get up earlier. ( We will) set up tether ops where people can go for tethered rides…(around) 8pm or after dark we will do the hot air balloon glow and laser show It’s amazing to see those balloons lit up like Christmas decorations.
Because the balloons depend on the weather, if there is too much wind, then only the laser show will take place, Kwaterski said.
He added that the event has a good weather guarantee, so if a customer attends one night and the weather is bad, they can go on the second day. If the balloons are not installed at all, the ticket can be used the following year.
“(We) want to be as fair as possible,” he said.
One-day general admission tickets are $20 for adults and $8 for children. A two-day pass for adults costs $32 and $12 for children. General parking is $5. Capacity for the event has not been fixed, so Kwaterski is encouraging people to purchase tickets in advance. If capacity is exhausted, tickets cannot be purchased in person. Tickets for the captive rides are $25 per person and will not sell out until the day of the event.
A portion of the proceeds will go to Special Olympics.
As for why people should go out, Kwaterski said the festival is not an everyday occurrence.
“You don’t see hot air balloons often,” he said. “We’re also going to have some awesome special shapes. We’ll have the American Eagle ball, which is 180 feet tall… It’s something really amazing to bring your family and something you won’t see every day.”
Doors will open at 3:00 p.m. and the event is expected to last until approximately 10:00 p.m. depending on weather and crowds. Kwaterski added that if the weather is good and there is a line for captive rides, the event will stay open later to accommodate people in line.
For more information, visit Aiken Hot Air Balloon Festival on Facebook. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.freshtix.com/events/aikenballoonfest.