CORDELE, Ga. (WALB) - Cordele is known for being the watermelon capital of the world, but hot air balloons are also one of the area’s main attractions.
“Cordele has a four-year history with hot air ballooning. I’ve flown since I was a little boy. And we come every June for the watermelon festival, but with COVID-19, this year was canceled," said Benjamin Drennan.
Drennan is a balloonist who participates in hot-air events around the country.
For the first two weekends in October, balloonists from around the globe usually travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the largest hot air balloon event in the world.
But it too was canceled because of COVID.
“And so, we decided we’re organizing kind of small micro-events all over the world. They’re happening in Spain and England and France, all over Africa, Australia, and of course, all over the United States. And so, the pilots from the surrounding states, kind of, they just kinda fell in love with southwest Georgia. And so they decided that we wanted to do it here," said Drennan.
Charles Bateman is the manager of a small business in the Cordele area.
He said this weekend’s balloon event will help business owners to recoup the money they lost when the Watermelon Festival was canceled back in June.
“Between the festival and the glow event only, we probably take in better than a half-million dollars in sales and for a small community, that really is a strong impact right there. It will just help more people stay open and more of those doors that have been closed to possibly open back up," said Bateman.
While the event will help small businesses, Drennan hopes it will serve another purpose too.
“We’re gonna be doing the glow tomorrow night, 7:30 to 8:30 for everybody to come out and to watch it, enjoy, and just have a chance to escape the monotony of everything and just smile and have some fun. And then throughout the weekend, we have selected some of our essential employees and front line workers and we are going to be offering them balloon rides to them and their families to have a good time and do something other than just worry and work all the time," said Drennan.
The balloons will be set up along Frontage Road for Friday night’s glow event.
Event organizers ask you to socially distance at the event and wear masks while looking at the balloons up close.