PHOTO GALLERY: Early pilots get a head start on the 2022 Natchez Balloon Festival – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

PHOTO GALLERY: Early pilots get a head start on Natchez Balloon Festival 2022

Posted at 5:16 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11, 2022

NATCHEZ – The early bird catches the worm, as the saying goes.

Three Missouri hot air balloon pilots who arrived in Natchez for the upcoming Natchez Balloon Festival are getting their first flights before the big event.

At least one balloonist, Kurt Vitense, took to the skies Monday night. Gary Whitby and Jason Gaines in his new balloon called “Sugar Momma” took off from Morgantown Elementary School on Tuesday morning and flew over the Mississippi River and landed between Vidalia and Ferriday on the levee road near Old River.

Vitense then entertained residents of the Adams County Nursing Center with a ball tether in the grassy field next to the retirement home where residents could watch.

Keep your eyes peeled for the skies, especially early in the morning and mid-afternoon, for the chance to see balloons flying this week and during the 37e Annual Natchez Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Orchestras will perform on the grounds of Rosalie on Friday and Saturday only and hot air balloon flights are scheduled all weekend around 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. depending on the weather.

Tickets and merchandise are on sale now at and will also be sold at the Natchez Historical Foundation and on the festival site.