Balloon Fest draws thousands from southeast Richmond County

A hot air balloon shaped like a Looney Tunes charter Tweety Bird lights up at Richmond County Airport on September 16. See more photos under the story. All photos by Betty Gallo McIntyre.

ROCKINGHAM – More than 8,000 visitors were drawn to Richmond County Airport this past weekend for NC’s second annual Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Organizers say more than half of those who attended the event, a partnership between the airport and Balloon Glow Tour held September 16-18, were from outside the county.

According to a press release, some even came from other states, including South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Organizers said there was even a Romanian family vacationing in Charlotte who made the trip east to see the hot air balloons.

“There are many more local guests this year,” Richard Garvie, owner of Balloon Glow, said in a press release. “Every model we’ve used to project attendance this year has been met and exceeded!

“We love coming to Richmond County because it’s such a friendly and welcoming place,” Garvie continued. “Seeing so many local families hang out, relax and enjoy the evening was great. Local attendance and fun will continue to be our priority.

One possible reason for the increased number of local attendees was a deal struck that allowed Richmond County residents to receive a discounted price on tickets. County employees and first responders also participated in the event free of charge.

Jason Gainey, a former airport manager, was instrumental in bringing balloons to the county in 2021 and earlier this year for a quasi-political encounter. Gainey resigned to run for the Richmond County Board of Commissioners.

“We struck a small deal at the airport in April where Richmond County residents had the opportunity to get out and about while meeting candidates for local political office,” Gainey said in the statement. Press. “Richard then agreed that we could reduce ticket prices for those with proof of residency to $10 per car load, making the event accessible to all families in the county. In addition, these events bring our municipalities together as one cohesive family. – that’s what everyone wants.

County Executive Bryan Land said the county is “perfectly positioned” to host major events, such as the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

“(We) would like to see an increase in events in our community that generate revenue for local small businesses, hotels and restaurants,” Land said in a statement. “Everyone, from every corner of our county, enjoys these family events! My staff and I will continue to work diligently to bring these events to Richmond County. »

This year’s event had fewer balloons due to four pilots with Cartoon Balloons falling ill following an event in Reno, Nevada, according to the press release.

Despite the setback, Garvie seems enthusiastic about returning, saying county officials are east to work with.

“Richmond County is doing so much to grow and become a great place to live and visit and I’m thrilled to see the progress with each visit,” Garvie said. “See you next year.”