June 12, 2016

Balloons Over Fayette

Three hot air balloons over Fayette
Three hot air balloons over Fayette.
One of the photography clubs I am a member of announced a meetup for a new hot air balloon festival. I debated about going because it was unclear how many balloons there would be or what the surroundings would be like. I did a quick Google Maps search, and it did not appear that there was any water where this would be held. It is so beautiful to photograph balloons, particularly at night, next to water.

In the end, I decided I would go, and this is a review of the hot-air-balloon portion of the festival only. There were food and craft vendors, an artisan market, live music, and a kid's zone, but I did not visit that part of the park. The event was held in McCurry Park in Fayetteville, Georgia (Fayette County), which is about an hour south of Smyrna.

Hot air balloon flame
Hot air balloon flame.
I had viewed Google Maps again before I left to see what route I would need to take, and I could see a solid red line in front of the park. It wasn't a long road, however, so it was hard to know how slow it was moving. And Google was showing 55 minutes to get there, so I decided to take a chance. Well, it turned out to be almost an hour and a half with 30 minutes being the last half mile! Once I got into the park, finding a parking space was not too bad, so that was a nice surprise.

Sun setting behind a hot air balloon
Sun setting behind a hot air balloon.
As I approached the area where the balloons were situated, I saw there were only five. And for tethered balloons, that's not a bad number, but there was no water for reflections. Bummer! And this park is a series of ball fields, so they have really big flood lights all over the fields. It wasn't dark just yet, so the lights did not adversely affect the lighting of the balloons. But! the fact that there were light poles surrounding where the balloons were situated meant it was much harder to take photos without them ending up in the picture.

Sunset tethered balloon ride
Tethered balloon ride at sunset.
I did not get there in time for the balloons being inflated, which is always fun to photograph. What I mostly went for was the "balloon glow." That's when it starts to get dark and the balloon handlers turn on the flames at the same time and long enough for the balloons to light up. When I went to the Callaway Gardens Hot Air Balloon Festival last year, they never got it coordinated so that each balloon was lit at the same time. However, the fact that those balloons were next to water, and I got some great photos of the reflections, made up for that.

Light pole with an interesting sky.
It was a little windy, and that is certainly not something that Fayette could control, but I heard no announcement once the decision was made to deflate and start folding up the balloons. All of a sudden, it was just over. So I don't know if the lights would have been turned off for the balloon glow—I certainly hope they would have. I hung out with my photography friends for a little bit, hoping the traffic would disperse a little before leaving.

Flag on balloon basket
Taking her down.
Walking back to the car revealed that traffic was pretty backed up. Whenever I go to these events, especially "out of town," I go prepared, so I had snacks. I decided to just sit there and relax, not waste my gas, and leave after the traffic died down more. Taking that approach meant that it did not actually take as long to get out of there as it did to get in.

I had fun. Honestly, I always do, but I won't go to this festival again. The location, for photographers, is not ideal. Like I said, that's who my review is for. Even though there were some issues that weren't perfect at Callaway, I still recommend that location over this one.

Do you know of another hot air balloon festival near Atlanta that you would recommend?Tell me all about it in the comments.

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