Memorial Day means Freedom Weekend Aloft is in town. This is the 29th year of the festival, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been around that long. We decided we would head down this evening and see if we could spot some of the balloons.
FWA started out as a July 4th holiday, and was held at Donaldson Center. It kept that venue and time slot for many, many years. Either because of expenses at Donaldson, declining attendance, or whatever, it was moved to Anderson for awhile. Then its date was moved from Independence Day to Memorial Day, and the venue moved to Heritage Park in Simpsonville. It seems to be doing very well on this date and location.
There was to be a mass ascension between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm, so we headed on down after an early dinner. We didn’t want to get mixed up in the crowds, nor did we want to pay a park entrance fee just to watch the balloons. After a bit of driving we found lots of folks in the parking lot of Bryson Middle School, and that’s were we set up shop, too.
It wasn’t long before the balloons started to appear above the trees. Some went up very quickly, others, just sort of skimmed the tree line at a leisurely pace.
We stayed long enough to watch about 40 balloons lift off. Unfortunately, the balloons were backlit by the setting sun, so lighting for photography was horrible.
After a significant number had launched, we decided to follow them. I zigzagged us through country roads between Fountain Inn and Simpsonville, pulling over occasionally to watch.
The chase vehicles seemed to be following the same route as we were. Soon enough the balloons started to come down. These landed just about anywhere there was open room, including a ball park and several back yards. I heard one woman yell, “Oh my God, it landed in our back yard!” Any where a balloon came down, lots of onlookers rushed up to it to take photos.
It was loads of fun, and we managed to see lots of balloons without getting stuck in terrible, terrible traffic or having to deal with huge crowds. One of these days, though, I’m actually going to have to enter the park and see what’s going on.