POTEAU (KFSM) —The annual Poteau Balloon Fest is the biggest economic boom in that county, and is bringing more than 30,000 people to the area to enjoy the event.
"This is the largest event that's economic driven because our hotels are full, our restaurants are gonna do good and (so will the) convenience stores," said Karen Wages, Poteau Chamber of Commerce executive director. "There's a lot of buzz around town and has been for three days, and we're getting lots of calls of people that are from several hours away."
The festival is ranked as one of the top-10 balloon festivals.
Hotels and restaurants are packed: reflecting how many people come to join the fun.
"We have several guests coming for the balloon fest and they've been coming the last couple of years," said Andy Gandhi, Sure Stay Plus Hotel general manager. "They come every year."
Most of the hotels are booked for the weekend, prompting businesses to bring in extra help.
"We already hired a couple housekeepers... .," Gandhi added.
The festival offers what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.
"If you've never seen a balloon up close, you get to walk out there to the balloon as they pull the burners and make the fire," Wages said. "You'll get to feel that, and stand and lean on the basket. If you want to get close... you can do it right here in Poteau."
The balloon fest will be open Friday (Oct. 20) from noon to 11 p.m., as well as Saturday (Oct. 21) from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Weather permitting, attendees will be allowed to ride in a tethered hot air balloon from sunrise or sunset.
Other activities at the festival include food and craft vendors, helicopter, Monster Truck, carnival and pony rides.
Read more information about the Poteau Balloon Fest, here.