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Balloon fest is this weekend

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Once a year for the last 23 years, hot air balloons have filled the skies over Highland Village, thanks to the local Lion’s Club who sponsors a balloon festival each year.

This year, the event is set for August 20-22nd at Copperas Branch Park, where between ten and twenty thousand people are expected for the festivities that will include the launching of around 20 hot air balloons.

“It’s fun for the entire family,” said Highland Village Lions Club Vice President Cindy Jones. “Our balloon festival is a little different than most and you can get up close to the balloons and talk to the pilots,” she said.

The event benefits the charities that the Lion’s Club supports, and there will be collection boxes for eyeglasses, sunglasses, lenses, frames, eyeglass cases and old cell phones. Jones said she got involved in the Lion’s Club because she knew they supported efforts to help provide eyeglasses for those in need, and her own mother was suffering from macular degeneration. “It’s a little bit of payback,” she added.

Balloon pilot Keith Barry of Plano will serve as the Balloon Meister for the festival, which means that he is in charge of safety of the balloon operations. Barry has been involved in hot air ballooning for about 20 years, ever since he volunteered as a crew member at a festival in Missouri, and he has been a balloon pilot for eight years.  “I got hooked on it,” he said. As he returns to the Highland Village Balloon Festival for the fifth year, he said his favorite part is getting to interact with people and answer questions about ballooning. And, he added, the festival is one of his favorites. “I love the festival. It’s a nice, neat venue and the people are very friendly,” he said. “Come out and see the balloons. It’s one of the neatest things you can experience.”

In addition to the balloons, there will be a myriad of activities including for the first time, a Navy Flight Simulator and more carnival rides than last year. There is something for the whole family, with arts & crafts booths, a food court, bounce houses, the Boogie Woogie Choo Choo, Car Bash, Games 2U Hamster Balls, and raffle prizes. Also new this year will be TKO Sport Kite Team performances on Saturday.

The line up for live bands includes the Linda Atwell Duo, Jon Rutherford & The Honkey Tonks, Radiofire, Brian Shuck, Justin Gabrielli “Amplify Atlantic”, and the Kat Moore Band. Another festival attraction is Balloon Glow @ Dusk with Glen Moyer.

Admission is free with a $5 donation for parking, and the gates open at 5 p.m. Friday, August 20th. Learn more at www.hvballoonfest.com.

Jones said the Highland Village Lions Club is always looking for new members, and they meet the first and third Saturdays of each month from 9-10 a.m. at the Highland Village Municipal Center.

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