SHREVEPORT, La.—Glowing hot air balloons bring color and magic to the LSU-Shreveport campus Friday and Saturday during the CenterPoint Energy Red River Balloon Rally.
Presented by the Louisiana Office of Tourism, this year's balloon festival features as many as 30 or more hot air balloons on the grounds from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
The pilots have been competing this past week in the U.S. Southeast Regional Hot Air Balloon Championship, just about an hour's drive south of Texarkana.
All sorts of fun shapes can be seen in these majestic balloons, from a flying squirrel to Billy the Kid. And to see them at dusk is a memorable experience.
"I think the main attraction for most folks is the balloon glow, which happens at 8:30 p.m. each night, Friday and Saturday," said Chris Jay, social media and public relations manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau.
"Everybody from Tweety Bird to you name it," Jay said. "There's some fun characters in there. There's an armadillo cowboy character that we've never had in Shreveport before."
Particularly for children, he said, the balloon glow is a main draw. "When they're lit up and when they're lighting up, it's genuinely magical and kids especially just lose their minds. It's awesome," Jay said. Each night a fireworks show is staged, too, for more post-balloon glow color in the sky.
In addition to the balloon glow, there are tethered balloon rides, food vendors and arts and crafts vendors. It's like a major festival with "incredibly beautiful" hot air balloons, Jay said.
In addition to a chance to see and experience hot air balloons up close, the festival features live music: faith-based and Christian music Friday for Faith and Family Night with acts like KB, Building 429, The Hootens, Austin Lanier, Phillip Cole, Dillan Cate and the First Bossier Worship Band; and uptempo, more rock-oriented acts for Louisiana Saturday Night on Saturday with Neon Circus and their Brooks & Dunn tribute, '80s-flavored tunes from The Molly Ringwalds and Hispanic music by Los B-OK.
It's a diverse lineup with a major music festival-style setup, Jay said. And about the venue, he said, "LSU-Shreveport's campus has this big, beautiful green space on the east side of the campus, and it's almost like it was made for a balloon rally."
Last year's rally drew an estimated 20,000 festival goers. Expect there to be some security, but Jay asked people to be patient as they're admitted to the event; organizers want to ensure safety for all who attend. This is the fourth year for the rally.
Check the event website below for information about what can and cannot be brought to the festival grounds.
(Tickets at the gate: $12 ages 18 and up, $10 ages 6 to 17, $10 for military, free for ages 5 and under. Tickets for $10 for ages 6 and up available at participating Super 1 Foods and Brookshire's stores. More info, a complete schedule and ticket purchase can be found at RedRiverBalloonRally.com.)