Boro Balloon Fest
Photo by Kristen Leisman

Soaring above the earth powered by warm air and wind currents, hot air balloons bring us back to simpler times. When in the air, they do a dance. Both flying in one and watching from the ground is a mesmerizing experience. The inaugural Boro Hot Air Balloon Festival brought the experience to more than six thousand at The Grove at Batey Farms Aug 2-4. The three-day event drew in all ages, and offered a lively atmosphere.

Bordered by fields of sunflowers, and punctuated by live music, visitors had the opportunity to indulge in goodies from many different food trucks while watching the balloons.

Tethered and longer rides were offered to those wishing to experience the weightless ride. The tethered rides stayed firmly attached to the ground, but the untethered rides lasted about an hour and sailed up and away from the grounds.

One of the founders of the event, Gina Wheeler, explained that it has been a long-time dream of hers to share her love of ballooning with the public.

“[I’ve been] in ballooning for over 25 years,” said Wheeler, “we have been putting up [our] balloons at our church and many asked to have a festival where they could ride in the hot air balloons. A few weeks later I dreamed of several hot air balloons flying over [the] Murfreesboro skyline with numerous colors. That dream became a reality to offer to our community…[at this] hot air balloon festival.”

Their first flight, Friday morning was a huge success with one of the news stations not only filming inflations but the cameraman actually flew with one of the balloon crews. Organizers were excited that the event was off to a great start. Friday afternoon, conditions looked fairly decent and two balloons were launched, one was tethered, and the other was positioning to start tethering. Then, a thunderstorm front in Nashville creeped towards the grounds of the event. When lightning came within five miles of the field, they had to put the balloons away to protect passengers, onlookers, crews, and pilots.

Saturday morning more balloons were launched, things were looking up. Then Saturday afternoon, everything came to a screeching halt because of intense thunderstorms.

“We are on hold for tonight,” said Howard Holmes, captain of one of the balloons, “we don’t want to get caught in storms and winds.”

Like all outdoor festivals, the weather can have a huge impact. However, hot air balloons are even more impacted by thunderstorms. First, the propane that is used to create the fire that makes a hot air balloon rise is extremely flammable. The electricity in the air of a thunder shower could cause it to combust. Second, balloons generally fly only in calm and low winds. That is why hot air balloons typically only fly in the mornings and late afternoons where the winds are more compliant for the gentle giants to ascend in the air. Thunderstorms whip up the winds, which makes the balloons uncontrollable. While the decision to ground the balloons was hard, there was little choice for the safety of all involved.

Yet, when the balloons were grounded, there was still a party atmosphere and much to do, including listening to live music on the stage, strolling among the craft vendors, and exploring the sunflowers blooming on the grounds of The Grove.

Music was provided on Friday night by Stephen Simmons Band with Mando Saenz, Shannon Wright, and Jon Byrd. Saturday visitors danced to the beat of J Kyle Reynolds, Tiffany, Turner and Company and Dave Barnes.

Food trucks offered everything from shaved ice to pizza, burgers and barbecue. There was even one that served an assortment of iced teas, perfect for the warm and muggy Saturday evening. Participants included Puckett’s trolley, Cousins Maine Lobster, Rolled 4 ever Ice Cream, My Roots Curbside Culinary, Kona Ice, The Dough Box, Smokin’ Buttz, and many more.

Sponsors included, Puckett’s Murfreesboro, Ferrellgas, World Outreach Church, Hilton Garden Inn Murfreesboro, Visit Rutherford Tennessee, Sprint by Absolute Wireless. Redstone Federal Credit Union, MFA Oil, The Murfreesboro Pulse, Chick-fil-A Murfreesboro, Ann Hoke & Associates Keller Williams, Billie’s Place at Paradise Farm, Zaxby’s,, Toot’s West, and Wash N’ Roll Car Wash Tennessee

Unfortunately, a steady stream of thunderstorms grounded many of the flights and the evening balloon glows. While some did get to experience the balloon activities, sadly most did not. That is one of the problems with hot air balloons, they totally depend on something that organizers had no control over – the weather.

[If we do] decide to do this event next year,” said Wheeler, “…there would need to be some major changes! The first being the season of the event…we would like the Fall because the heat of the summer can have [more of] the pop up showers… However, there are no guarantees no matter what the season… [that] bad weather can come and rob you of the event. Like all first-year events, you go thru a lot of mistakes, and usually by the next year all the kinks have been worked out for a more successful annual event.”

“I love hot air balloons,” said Abbie Wheeler, co-founder of the event. “I wanted to introduce the community to them, and create something that they could put their arms around. I hope we can do it again next year.”