Hot air balloons take Watermelon Days festival to new heights - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Hot air balloons take Watermelon Days festival to new heights

Up, up, and away- over Cordele (Source: WALB) Up, up, and away- over Cordele (Source: WALB)
Workers are prepping the balloon for flight. (Source: WALB) Workers are prepping the balloon for flight. (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
(Source: Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce) (Source: Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce)
CRISP CO., GA (WALB) -

This weekend, visitors to the Watermelon Capital of the World can go up, up and away during Cordele's hot air balloon festival.

The event is part of Cordele's 68th annual Watermelon Days Festival. 

"The best I can explain is it feels much more like the ground takes off from beneath you than you taking off from the ground. It's very gentle," Balloonmeister Ben Drennan said.

Drennan has flown hot air balloons since he was a teen, logging more than 500 hours in the sky. As a native of Cordele, he wanted to bring something new to this year's Watermelon Days Festival by adding hot air balloons to the mix. 

The hot air balloon festival is funded by the hotel-motel tax through the Cordele-Crisp Tourism Committee. It costs around $15,000 to make this event happen with donations from the community.

 "This has been many years in the making. Through the last five or six years, we've bought one balloon, two balloons, three balloons, like that but never anything to this scale," Drennan said.

It's a new venture that will take many people to new heights.

"The best thing about is you talk to anybody, it's on their bucket list," Drennan said.  "It's that thing they always say I wish I had a chance to do that. And so here's a chance not just to be in one balloon but to be in the sky with 20 balloons at the same time."

Groups can take flights for $175 a person.

There will also be tethered rides available starting at 7 p.m. on Friday behind the Cordele Chick-Fil-A.

On Saturday, tethered rides will be set up at Georgia Veterans State Park starting at 7 p.m.

All balloon events are weather dependent.

For reservations call 229-947-1257 or 850-529-1943.

The hot air balloon festival is one of a dozen events scheduled for this year's Watermelon Days Festival. A full list of events is available here.

For more information about the festival, contact the Chamber at 229-273-1668.

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