Outdoors Briefs

Hot air balloon 
festival returns

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

During the festival, numerous professional balloonists will soar through the sky under a Smoky Mountain sunset. 

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

Little Arrow Outdoor CEO and festival organizer Carmen Simpher, expressed excitement over the event. 

“The Hot Air Balloon Festival is such a visually stunning backdrop of mountains and hot air balloons. It is a mesmerizing display, and I am happy that we are having this festival in Townsend another year. I think people who come out will be very happy they did,” Simpher said. 

Gates open at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per guest with advance parking costing $20. Parking passes are offered on the website ( gsmballoonfest.com ) under tickets. Day of Festival parking is $25 at the gate and guests who park in private lots or are dropped off will pay a $5 admission fee. 

Tethered balloon rides are also now available for pre-sale orders. Tickets are $25 per rider. No riders under 8 years of age are permitted to ride the balloons. Weather permitting, rides will begin at 6 p.m. 

Additionally, the enchanted VIP August 19 event will take place in the same location from 5 to 10 p.m. That evening offers a private and intimate experience with music, food and a tethered balloon ride. Funds raised from VIP ticket sales go to the Townsend/Cades Cove Gateway Alliance nonprofit. 

VIP lift off is new this year and is limited to only 300 participants at $200 per person. The package includes parking, tented seating for shade and balloon viewing, commemorative swag, attendee choice of CJ’s Tacos or B’s Bites, tickets for adult beverages and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. 

The package also gives VIPs the chance to chat with the balloonists, enjoy a peaceful balloon ride and have countless photo opportunities. VIP wristband can be used for reentry on Saturday, Aug. 20 for the main event. 

For more information on the Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival, visit gsmballoonfest.com .   

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