Hot air balloons lift spirits at autumn festival

Floating hot air balloons glowed throughout the night sky as children raced between carnival rides with their parents in tow at the Missouri Autumn Carnival and Balloon Festival.

The festival was held Thursday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 21, at Cartwright Business and Technology Park near the Columbia Regional Airport. The event featured a full carnival with rides for all ages, tethered balloon rides, and a competition flight on Sunday. The festival was free to attend.

During the late 90s, Columbia hosted the National Hot Air Balloon Championship competition, and many of those same pilots and balloons came back to Missouri for the festival this year.

Balloons flew right after sunrise and just before sunset. They started flying at around 7:30 a.m. and went back up in the evenings between 5 and 8:30 p.m. The festival also had balloon illuminations after sunset every night.

There were 10 different carnival rides, including a carousel and a Ferris wheel. The rides were spread out across an open stretch of asphalt, with food vendors— that featured footlong corndogs and huge funnel cakes— mixed in among them.

“I liked the environment,” said Cynthia Colin, a college student who attended the festival on Thursday. “It wasn’t very crowded so there was enough space to move around without feeling too claustrophobic. They also had funnel cakes which made everything that much better.”

It cost $10 for a ride in a tethered balloon, and $15 for a ride pass. Whether you wanted to fly through the air or keep your feet safely planted on the ground and just enjoy the carnival rides, there were options for everyone.

 “The carnival rides were definitely a welcomed addition to the balloons,” Missy Johansson, a festival attendee, said. “You could either be on a ride and watching the balloons, or vice versa. There wasn’t a moment in which you couldn’t be watching something exciting. The rides and the balloons were an attraction you could not miss.”