The inaugural Rome Hot Air Balloon Festival may ride on winds that stretch to Northwest Georgia from Hurricane Florence. Organizers are pressing forward with last minute plans while keeping an eye on the Atlantic and Hurricane Florence.
“It's going to be a family type atmosphere for everyone, and hopefully the weather will be good and everyone can have a good time,” said Assistant Floyd County Manager Gary Burkhalter.
He is serving as the interim airport manager while the county searches for a replacement for Mike Mathews who left in July for the Athens-Ben Epps Airport.
Perhaps even more than other outdoor festivals in the fall, the Rome Hot Air Balloon Festival is dependent on the weather. The best conditions include a fair sky with are for wind speeds in the three to five mile per hour range. If the breeze gets up to beyond the eight to ten mile per hour range, it is not likely they will be able to fly.
Nikole Listemaa, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, said that as of Wednesday afternoon she feels Friday will be dry with light northwesterly breezes could get into the seven to ten mile per hour range.
She's not as confident about a forecast for Saturday at this point, depending on the potential path and forward speed of Hurricane Florence.
Airport Commission Chairman Chip Hood said that if the weather holds, the balloon festival will be a great opportunity to expose some people to the airport that perhaps had never been there in the past.
Hood said the Airport Commission and local officials are doing every-thing they can to generate growth at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.
“I'm in talks right now with the Air Force. The C-130 that everybody sees fly over once or twice a week about getting them to stop in and buy some fuel from us,” Hood said.
Listemaa said that at this point she does not have any rain in the Friday forecast, but the forecast does have a 20 percent chance of precipitation Saturday. She also said that by Saturday afternoon winds could reach up into the 10-15 miles per hours range with gusts of 20-25 mph.
IF YOU GO:
The skies over Rome are expected to come alive with all sorts of shapes and colors this weekend when the Rome Hot Air Balloon Festival comes to Richard B. Russell Airport on Friday and Saturday.
The event will bring dozens of hot air balloons to Rome for those two days and families can enjoy tethered balloon rides, crafts, vendors, kids rides, and even aerial stunts by Tiger Flight Foundation.
Balloons will include the Purple People Eater, Tom & Jerry, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety Bird & Sylvester.
There will also be restored airplanes and helicopters on display from the Museum of Flight. On both days, the gates open at 1 p.m. followed by craft booths opening at 3 p.m. The Rome Young Marines' flag ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. and tethered balloon rides being at 4:10 p.m. Weather permitting, hot air balloons will lift off at 6:30 p.m. and the balloon glow will start at 8 p.m.