Citing COVID-19 concerns, board decides against holding large public event

Special to Iredell Free News

A small group of tenacious individuals gathered in a rural field 47 years ago to host the National Balloon Rally, beginning an annual event that hosts pilots from around the country (and world). Since its creation, the event has captivated the hearts and minds of both local and visiting onlookers, who take in the sights and sounds of the balloons that navigate the Iredell County skies. Resolved to spread their knowledge and love for the sport of hot air ballooning, in addition to supporting their community, the National Balloon Rally became an incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1988. Its mission is “to continue the heritage of hot air ballooning in Iredell County, spotlight the community of Iredell County, and donate a percentage of Carolina BalloonFest proceeds to local nonprofit organizations.”

National Balloon Rally Charities Inc. has faced many challenges, trials and tribulations over the years, but the nonprofit has thrived in promoting hot air ballooning and in providing annual donations to support its community. This is all possible because of the grit and determination of dedicated individuals who have volunteered their time for this cause and mission.

With the festival’s origins in mind, and a hopeful future ahead, the Board of Directors has decided to alter this year’s Carolina BalloonFest by eliminating public attendance from the annual event.

In light of COVID-19 restrictions, NBRC Inc. announces that in lieu of the traditional event, organizers of 2020 Carolina BalloonFest will work with local pilots to host a festival tribute, with balloons in the sky over Iredell County, during the month of October.

Details have not been finalized for this tribute event, which will be held at an undetermined location. Additional details will be released in the next few months. Details of this event will be made widely available to the public through the Carolina BalloonFest website and social media, as well as shared with local media outlets.

“This decision does not come lightly,” said Bud Welch, executive director of Carolina BalloonFest.

Since early March, Welch and the board of directors have been in heavy discussion about the outlook of this year’s festival amid COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.

“A huge part of that conversation revolved around our nonprofit’s mission in which we donate a portion of Carolina BalloonFest proceeds to over 20 nonprofit organizations and community agencies within Iredell County,” Welch added.

National Balloon Rally Charities champions other nonprofits and community agencies that help others within our community by donating $100,000 annually to a growing number of nonprofits and other agencies. In the last 10 years, over $780,000 has been donated back to the local community.

“Despite these restrictions and regulations, we recognize that these entities are still counting on our donations as a source of income,” continued Welch. “We, as a nonprofit, are going to do the very best we can to raise funds this year in an effort to continue with some type of an annual donation to our community. But that also meant deciding to scale back our annual event for this year, a decision that will secure the wellbeing of our nonprofit so that we may continue to give those donations year after year to the nonprofits and community agencies that depend on it.”

The Carolina BalloonFest has always been a community event. The festival is operated by nearly 1,000 local volunteers, and entertains over 40,000 patrons, all while creating tourism commerce within Iredell County during the third weekend in October. 

The nonprofit’s motto is: We rise so others can soar.

This year, National Balloon Rally Charities needs the public’s help. If you would like to donate to the Carolina BalloonFest’s cause and mission, or you would like to learn more about NBRC Inc. or its decision about this year’s festival, visit www.CarolinaBalloonFest.com.

About the Carolina BalloonFest

National Balloon Rally Charities, Inc. DBA Carolina BalloonFest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which hosts an annual balloon festival, known as the second oldest hot air balloon festival in the country. Always occurring during the third weekend in October, the festival features hot air balloon morning competitions, mass ascensions, and evening balloon glows in addition to live entertainment on two stages, a kids’ zone, marketplace and artisan village, NC wine and craft beer garden, plus aerialist circus performances and skydiving exhibitions. To learn more about Carolina BalloonFest, visit www.CarolinaBalloonFest.com.

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