Monday, 14 September 2020 12:36

Hot air balloon festival floating to Rockingham Speedway

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Hot air balloon festival floating to Rockingham Speedway Courtesy of Easy Events Group

ROCKINGHAM — A Delaware-based events company has high hopes for a scheduled hot air balloon festival at Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex next month.

Easy Events Group, Inc. announced Monday that it is going ahead with plans for the North Carolina Balloon Festival on the Speedway property Oct. 2-4, but with a limited capacity.

According to Event Director Rick Garvie, there will be 1,000 passes issued for each day.

The event will feature “hot air balloons glowing at dusk, with tethered balloon rides and hot air balloon flights taking place subject to suitable weather conditions,” according to a press release.

Attendees will have to purchase tickets online in advance of the festival, Garvie said. One there, they will be required to have their temperatures taken and wear facial coverings.

Garvie said the entire events industry has taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with his company having to cancel events over the past six months.

“Most politicians think that all festivals are wild music concerts where guests are roaring drunk and out of control,” said Garvie. “Our events, and most events to be fair, are well-organized occasions where guests naturally socially distance with their families. My own opinion is that if it is safe to go to a museum, a zoo, a busy grocery store or large capacity church, then having people enjoying a family day out in the outdoors is as safe as you can get unless you stay home."

The balloon fest at Rockingham Speedway will be the first since the early spring, with events following in Georgia and Florida.

This will also be the first major event hosted by the Speedway, although it served as part of Rockingham Festival Park for the inaugural Epicenter Festival — which was moved to Charlotte Motor Speedway — and was the site of a drive-through graduation for Richmond Senior High School in June, since it was purchased in August 2018.

Garvie said Rockingham is an ideal location because there is a “huge amount of property to work with” and it is close enough to large cities like Raleigh and Charlotte to draw a crowd without having to worry about being in a major flight path for an airport.

“Easy Events Group’s exceedingly solid reputation preceded them, and after working with them to execute this event, we definitely saw why,” said Jamie Saad, a spokesman for the Speedway.

“While not compromising the event’s enjoyability — or ‘fun factor’ — a prime focus is safety for all of our guests,” Saad continued. “With proper social distancing and other CDC guidelines being instituted, as well as other protocols that must be adhered to when producing outdoor events, we are confident that the event will be executed responsibly, and will definitely give the community a memorable time.”

Even with protocols in place, Garvie said the company is still monitoring local COVID-19 statistics, including new cases and hospitalizations.

“We’re watching the numbers carefully,” he said.

Last week, Richmond County recorded 106 new cases, which doesn’t include any who may have contracted the virus over Labor Day weekend.

There is also a “Plan B” which includes a drive-in experience.

However, if there is a huge spike, Garvie said they would not proceed. If that happens, ticket holders can roll their tickets over to 2021 or request a refund.

This event is not the same as the Carolina Balloon Festival held in Statesville for nearly 50 years. That event was canceled for this year.

According to a press release, that event drew 40,000 people annually.

Garvie said even with a limited attendance in place for this year, he hopes the Rockingham event can grow into “one of the biggest events in the state.”

For event and ticket information, visit balloonglowtour.com