Introducing Natchez’s Balloon, The Lady Jester – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

Introducing Natchez’s Balloon, The Lady Jester

Posted 2:19 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, 2022

NATCHEZ — After more than 30 years of flying in the annual Natchez Balloon Festival, Albuquerque, New Mexico natives Robert and Sally Lupton have decided to hang up their ballooning caps. Their unique ball, called “Lady Jester” became a local favorite for over a decade of the event.

The couple are now retiring from ballooning, making the 37th this year.e annual festival, their last flight. However, Natchez has not seen the last of Lady Jester.

Tate Hobdy, who has been a crew member of the Luptons since the age of 4, announced on Friday evening that he and other members of the Natchez Balloon Festival committee had purchased Lady Jester from the Luptons. The ball will now be used as a promotional tool for the event, Hobby said.

“It will be cool to see Lady Jester on a random weekend at Natchez,” Hobdy said. “It’s Natchez’s ball.”

Sally has been a licensed pilot for 41 years, she said, adding that it was sad to let her down.

“I taught (Robert) how to fly,” she said. “I love this city and I love everything. … I have no problem stealing, but moving things, especially if we’re alone, has become quite difficult. Putting things in the trailer and moving it is more difficult at 74 than at 30.

On the Luptons’ first flight to Natchez, Tate Hobdy and her father Braxton rescued them after they landed in a bean field 20 miles outside Natchez, Robert said.

“Tate and his dad picked us up at four in the morning (Sunday) after a flight on Saturday night,” he said.

Although the first flight was difficult, Robert said he and Sally had flown over 32 states together and Natchez was their favorite place to fly.

“We wouldn’t travel a thousand miles each way to fly here every year if it wasn’t,” he said. “These people are our family. When Tate and Abby got married, I did the ceremony.

For a change, they can enjoy the festival cheer without worrying about getting to the 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. flights each day. They have a tradition every year. They operate every morning and evening flight but never on Sunday afternoon, the last flight of the festival. After breakfast at Braxton Hobdy’s, it’s finally time to relax and party, Robert said.

Robert guessed that he carried between 700 and 800 Natchez Balloon Festival passengers. Although the Luptons are retiring, they aren’t ready to say goodbye to all their balloon friends.

“We will always come back to Natchez every year, just without the ball,” Robert said. “She stays here.”