The Insiders Guide to the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race
The 33rd Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in Natchez, Mississippi kicks off October 19. The balloon race always reminds me of the start of Fall, not because of cooler temperatures, because that’s a rarity in the South. But, waking up, walking outside and seeing the sky covered in hot air balloons! First you see one or two. Then three and four! As a young girl, born and raised in Natchez, this sight was just magical to me. How in the world did these huge colorful giants float on air?
Friday, October 19, 2018
The festival kicks off on Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. and the first event you can enjoy is the balloon glow on the Bluff at Rosalie. You get to see, up close and personal, how these balloons work. The pilots set up their balloons, and 1-2-3, GLOW! It’s beautiful! Then, the grand finale – fireworks over the Mississippi River! And this is just the first night!
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Saturday is just as amazing. You’ve had a good night’s rest, and now it’s time to head back downtown. Go enjoy brunch at the Natchez Coffee Company or check out the espresso bar at Steampunk Coffee Roasters. Even stop by Fat Mama’s for one of their famous “knock-you-naked” margaritas! The festival site opens at 11:00 a.m., and music begins at noon. I always love to go down to the festival site, pick our spot and set up our chairs and blankets. Then we grab lunch from one of the delicious food vendors. This is a festival, so of course you can find a funnel cake. Don’t act like you weren’t thinking it! Sit down, eat, relax and listen to the live music. Oh, and you need something to drink? No problem, there are soft drinks, water, beer, and a full-service bar available.
Something that was added a few years ago to the festival is BlufftoberFest. It’s an Oktoberfest biergarten featuring regional and local craft beers. It also has Oktoberfest-esque games and fun. I like to get a beer and watch. It’s totally entertaining!
The arts and crafts area is great to walk through and shop. I have found some of the most unique items I have ever seen. These vendors are from all over the South, so I always walk through to find that one unique item. You will want to be sure to take some time and check it out.
And there is plenty for the kiddos to do as well. A carnival, or as I refer to it as an ‘oh gracious, give me patience’ playground. I really think my children think it was brought for them. From a Ferris wheel to a Tilt A Whirl – it’s there. And yes, look out, your kid CAN come home with a goldfish! We usually grab an adult beverage and watch them ride and ride and ride. Don’t forget to get plenty of tickets!
Around 4:00 p.m., there is an afternoon flight. The perfect place to watch is the festival grounds. Go back to your spot and just wait for the balloons to fly over. Our boys love this! They yell hello to the pilots and they will wave back. They feel so special! See, our boys have been attending the balloon races every year of their lives, just like me. My family has attended every race since inception. If you ask them, they can tell you all about it. Why you should go, where you should sit, what are the hottest toys to buy from the vendors – usually the loudest and brightest toy.
Around 5:30, Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, will take the stage. She’s a legend. Trust me on this. Take every bit of her awesomeness in. All hail the queen! www.irmathomas.com.
Saturday night, I’m usually exhausted and want to go home – ha! However, that is not the case for pretty much everyone else! The headliner for Saturday night is Anders Osborne. Amazing is an understatement. Rock and rhythm and blues – Check him out www.andersosborne.com. Dance, eat, and then head out to the downtown nightlife in Natchez. You’ll be glad you did!
Sunday, October 21, 2018
You made it! It’s Sunday. To most locals, this is their favorite day. Not because it’s over, but this is Sunday Funday. You went to church, had lunch, changed into your comfy clothes and headed down to listen to the music. Gates open at noon, music begins at 1:00 p.m. An added bonus, is the afternoon balloon flight. Wrapping up an eventful weekend, listening to great music, and watching the beautiful balloons overhead.
Check out www.natchezballoonrace.com. Buy your tickets, book your room, and we will see you the weekend of October 19th!
About the Author
Rachel Lott grew up in Natchez but has called Brandon home for the past 15 years. She and her husband Brian have been married for 12 years and they have 2 boys, Alex (10) and Andrew (8). Rachel is a SAHM, but stays super busy volunteering in the community. She is a member of the Junior League of Jackson, PTO President of Northshore Elementary, Publicity Chair for the Great MS River Balloon Race in Natchez, and is captain of Andrew’s tennis team. She is one very busy lady!