The 2012 Louisiana Hot Air Balloon Championship and Festival will span two parishes, organizers said Thursday.
The morning competition flights for the balloon championship will be Aug. 3 through Aug. 5 in East Baton Rouge Parish, according to a news release.
The balloon festival will be held Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 only at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, according to a news release. The festival, which will be in the afternoon and evening, is sponsored by the Ascension Festivals and Cultural Council.
The announcement comes after the event was forced to move from its former location at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge where it had been held for the past nine years.
“When we were told we couldn’t use the Pennington spot anymore, we started looking all over the Baton Rouge area for a spot big enough to hold the festival,” said George Richard, executive director of the Louisiana Ballooning Foundation, on Thursday.
One of the problems, Richard said, was finding a spot that could handle the parking.
Over the past 10 years, the festival had an average of 45,000 to 50,000 visitors, Richard said.
“We looked all over. In Baton Rouge at the airport and near the soccer fields at Burbank Drive, Livingston, Central, Zachary and even Lafayette,” Richard said.
An agreement between the Louisiana Ballooning Foundation and the Ascension Festivals and Cultural Council was then developed.
“It’s been in the works for the last three weeks but we finalized it last night at our board meeting when we voted on it,” Richard said.
“Now that plans have been finalized, we are very excited that this prestigious event is coming to Ascension Parish,” Parish President Tommy Martinez said in a news release.
“Lamar-Dixon is the perfect location for families to enjoy the sights and sounds of the festival,” Martinez said.
Besides the available parking area, the parish-owned Lamar-Dixon site offers 200 recreational vehicle hookups for people who want to visit for the weekend, said Brad Walker, Ascension Festivals and Cultural Council coordinator, in a news release.
Admission to the festival is free with free parking and a large free children’s area, Richard said. The festival will feature live bands, parachute jumps, balloon liftoffs, fireworks, arts and crafts, and food and drink vendors. Schedules will be available soon.
The Ascension Festivals and Cultural Council will offer VIP areas for sponsorship and a VIP Balloon Club.
The Balloon Club will feature food and drinks in an air-conditioned area. The sponsor of this area is to be confirmed at a later date, Walker said in the news release.
“The important thing is this event is free and something great for families,” Richard said.
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