The Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival of Gonzales made its highly anticipated return for its third consecutive year this Friday. The Lamar-Dixon Expo center buzzed with excitement as the Baton Rouge band Jonathan Boogie Long Blues Revolution signaled the cue for the hot air balloons to take flight, all for affordable prices.
Due to the festival’s growing popularity over the last few years, it has expanded with new attractions including more vending options, continuous live music and fair rides. “Not only is there more to do,” said Deven Jackson, a Gonzales resident, “the festival is getting more organized. The parking crew has developed a lot, making it easier to get in and out.”
The hot air balloons come in many shapes in designs. There was one shaped like Pepe Le Pew’s head, one that looked like a spidery monster and the rest came in colorful striped and checkered patterns. Some of the fair rides at the festival were a Ferris wheel, the Bubble Rollers and the Dragon Wagon roller coaster.
While there were big names such as Don’s Seafood catering full meal deals for the event, there were also most of the staple festival stand appropriated snacks such as corn dogs, funnel cake, fried onions, popcorn and cotton candy. “A festival just isn’t the same without funnel cake,” said Danielle Owens, an Ascension Parish native. “It makes for good relaxation for the hot air balloon light show.”
When the sun started setting and the rides began to close, the crowds gathered around for the main event of the night. All the hot air balloons lit up the night sky in unison with a dazzling display. One of the “glow shows,” called “Around the World” featured balloon pilots taking turns lighting their balloon burners in a circular pattern. The display that generated the most crowd response was the “Twinkle” display in which every balloon flicked their burners with many short blasts in random patterns all at once.