Big Country Balloon Fest makes small changes for rain


ABILENE, Texas - It's the 23rd year for the Big Country Balloon Festival set for this weekend in Abilene, but bad weather in the area is causing a few small changes.

Festival organizer Robin Hicks said the bad weather won't stop them from having a good time, but there are certain weather conditions in which pilots are not allowed to fly.

"The winds and the rain and, of course, if there's moisture and if there's wind, you can't fly," Hicks said. "We have really, really great pilots that come in. One way or another, they try to put on a show."

The festival runs Friday through Sunday at Red Bud Park. It's open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7:30 - 9 a.m. Sunday.

But a few changes have been made to prepare for the rain.

"We're moving everything to the road," Hicks said. "We're still having it, we've just moved the stage to the road. The bands are still going to be here and the vendors already park on the road anyway. We've moved the inflatables out of the ball field to parking lots and on the road."

KTXS Chief Meteorologist Mark Rowlett's forecast shows the weather getting better as the festival goes on.

"Saturday morning some low clouds will be around and may be a problem flying. It should be dry Saturday and then the clouds break in the afternoon, so it should be good flying weather late Saturday afternoon. High temperatures Saturday in the mid-70s. Flying on Sunday morning may be okay, and so we're looking at better weather as we get deeper into the festival," Rowlett said.

Hicks said there's a reason they have the festival the last week of September every year. She said the pilots make a stop in Abilene and then go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta the weekend after.

Even if pilots can't fly their balloons due to the weather, Hicks said they will do a candlestick burn and allow kids to go into the basket and get autographs.

"We're still going," Hicks said. "You still have pony rides, they don't care about a little bit of a sprinkle, and we put things over the speakers so that the guys can still play, and we've still got the entertainment going on. Just all of the food come on out and have a great time."

The event is hosted by Optimist Club Unlimited of Abilene and they rely on sponsors. The event is free to the public and all proceeds from the sponsors go towards supporting children in Abilene.

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