Adventure Arkansas: Poteau Balloon Fest Behind the Scenes

More than thirty thousand people are expected to flock to Poteau for their annual balloon fest.  I headed to Oklahoma to see the preparations for the festival and to learn what people can expect this year.

Every year in the fall, the Leflore County’s airspace gets a little bit busier and lot more colorful as hot air balloons sail across its skies. Poteau's Chamber of Commerce President Karen Wages gave me glimpse of how the town has been getting ready.

“This is actually the longest-running balloon fest in the state of Oklahoma and it's continuing to grow,” said Wages.

The plains brush up against the mountains in eastern Oklahoma, making it perfect for hot air balloons to take flight.

“Years ago when the pilots first came here they discovered that this is a perfect area to have a balloon fest; that means they can fly out several miles and not get carried away because they are in a boxed area,” said Wages.

Both the 5NEWS weather team and the hot-air balloon pilots are keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast because they can only launch their balloons in certain conditions.

“The winds we actually need five mile per hour or less because these balloons, they're not motor driven, only wind driven, so the wind gets a hold of one of these and there's not control over them," said Wages. "It's dangerous if the winds are ten mile per hour or more; the public wants them to fly but,it's safety first."

In case the weather doesn't cooperate, the chamber spends the entire year coming up with extra activities.

“From a stunt motorcycles, to flying frisbee dogs, and the biggest thing that we going on this year is the UTV side-by-side races out here at the mud area, a belly-flop contest, a pumpkin mud run; so there's a lot of things,” said Wages.

If you’ve never been in a hot air balloon, it’s an experience of a lifetime.

“Once he gets to a certain altitude, he just lets off everything, and you hear nothing at all.   You're just soaring just like the birds...It gives me cold chills to think about it because birds came by, I could hear their wings, because you hear nothing, and you're looking down but you hear nothing.  It is unbelievable, like if you had wings,” said Wages.

For 5news and adventure Arkansas, I'm meteorologist Matt Standridge.

For tickets and parking information for the Poteau Balloon Fest, click here.

To follow the Poteau Balloon Fest on social, click here.

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