Balloon festival organizers plan to use bluff area for two balloon glows, tether rides, more

In the age of COVID-19 even hot-air balloons need social distancing.

On Tuesday, the Natchez Board of Aldermen approved its annual licensing agreement with Natchez Balloon Festival officials, giving the annual event use of the bluff along Broadway Street for the annual event, which is scheduled for Oct. 16-18.

In past years, most of the balloon festival took place on the grounds of the historic house Rosalie and not along the entire length of the bluff.

But this year is no ordinary year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic balloon festival officials decided not to use the traditional festival site and instead plan to spread out hot-air balloons along the entire length of the bluff in order to limit crowds and encourage social distancing.

“It is especially important to us this year, because we are not going to use the festival site at Rosalie,” Historic Natchez Foundation director emeritus Mimi Miller told the board Tuesday. “We hope to launch balloons, glow balloons and inflate balloons for tether rides on the bluffs.”

Miller said the balloon festival plans to conduct balloon glows on both Friday and Saturday nights up and down the bluff and in other locations throughout the city. Organizers have also planned a fireworks show over the Mississippi River. Other than tether rides, events during the weekend will be free to attend.

In order to ensure there is adequate space for the inflation of the hot-air balloons and for spectators to safely view the balloons, Miller said organizers want to make sure that the space is available and coordinated with other groups that are planning events along the bluff that weekend.

“We are willing to work with other groups that want to coordinate with us the use of that property,” Miller said.