The hot air balloon festival returns

On Friday, August 19, the Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival will kick off its fifth year with unique experiences for its VIPs. The following day, August 20, is the main event and will feature a variety of family activities.

During the festival, many professional balloonists will take to the skies under a Smoky Mountain sunset.

The August 20 main event will take place at the Townsend Visitor Center 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway from 4-9 p.m. The day will include live entertainment, artisans demonstrating and selling their artwork, a food truck lot and a beer tent.

Carmen Simpher, CEO of Little Arrow Outdoor and organizer of the festival, expressed her enthusiasm for the event.

“The Hot Air Balloon Festival is such a breathtaking backdrop of mountains and hot air balloons. It’s a fascinating exhibit, and I’m glad we’re bringing this festival to Townsend for another year. I think people who come out will be very happy that they did,” Simpher said.

Doors open at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person and advance parking is $20. Parking passes are available on the website (gsmballoonfest.com) under tickets. Festival day parking is $25 at the gate and guests parking in private lots or being dropped off will pay a $5 admission fee.

Captive hot air balloon rides are also now available for pre-sale orders. Tickets are $25 per rider. No rider under the age of 8 is allowed to ride the balloons. Weather permitting, walks will start at 6 p.m.

Additionally, the VIP enchanted event on August 19 will take place at the same location from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. This evening offers a private and intimate experience with music, food and a captive hot air balloon ride. Funds raised from VIP ticket sales are donated to the non-profit Townsend/Cades Cove Gateway Alliance.

The VIP takeoff is new this year and is limited to just 300 attendees at $200 per person. Package includes parking, tent seating for shade and balloon viewing, commemorative loot, attendee’s choice of CJ’s tacos or B’s bites, adult drink and drink tickets non-alcoholic at will.

The package also gives VIPs the chance to chat with the balloonists, enjoy a peaceful hot air balloon flight, and endless photo opportunities. The VIP wristband can be used for the comeback on Saturday August 20 for the main event.

For more information on the Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival, go to gsmballoonfest.com.