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Up, up and away

Pasco's balloon festival starts at sunrise, packs a full day of activities and comes to a head with the 8:15 p.m. Hot Air Balloon Glow.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


Just as the sun rises over west Pasco County on Saturday, more than a dozen giant hot air balloons will lift off from the J.B. Starkey Ranch. The display of color will mark the opening of the second annual Celebration Pasco Balloon Festival, a full day of events and entertainment for all ages.

It's the only hot air balloon festival in the county and is expected to draw up to 5,000 people.

As the balloonists compete in a "Hare and Hound" race, everyone else, including those with acrophobia, can stay on terra firma and take part in all the other things Celebration Pasco 2001 has to offer.

That could include the Heritage Park pancake breakfast, during which speakers will talk about the history of Pasco County, from 6:30 to 10 a.m.

At 9 a.m., all the other activities start, and at 6 p.m., a full slate of entertainers will take the stage to do a variety of acts.

All day, individuals can compete in the Cowchip Challenge. For $5, individuals can enter a throwing contest for either distance or accuracy. Winners get an event T-shirt and the chance for a first-place certificate.

For $50, teams of four can compete for the traveling Golden Cow Chip trophy and for event T-shirts and beverages. That competition is at 5:30 p.m.

A highlight of the day comes just after sunset, when the balloons return from the day's race and are reinflated for a nighttime Balloon Glow.

All proceeds from the day go to the Heritage Park Foundation, Pasco Education Foundation and Keep Pasco Beautiful.

Activity schedule

6 a.m.: Gates open

6:30 a.m.: "Hare and Hound" balloon liftoff

6:30-10 a.m.: Heritage Park pancake breakfast

9-11 a.m.: Pasco Heritage speaker presentations

9-11 a.m.: Tethered balloon rides (fee required)

9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Crafts exhibits

9 a.m.-9 p.m.: Kiddie Carnival

11 a.m.-10 p.m.: Food concessions open

11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.: Radio controlled model airplane show

3-5 p.m.: Kite decorating and flying activities

5-7 p.m.: Team Cowchip Challenge Contests

6 p.m.: Sound of Sunshine Chorus, singing in harmony

6:45 p.m.: MeerKats classic rock 'n' roll

7:45 p.m.: For Kids Only, singing and dancing group

8:15 p.m.: Hot Air Balloon Glow

9 p.m.: Soul Sacrifice, southern classic rock band

10 p.m.: Hi-Mu, funk, rock with an edge

At a glance

WHAT: Celebration Pasco Balloon Festival

WHERE: J.B. Starkey Ranch, just west of State Road 54 and Gunn Highway

WHEN: 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday TICKETS: Admission free; parking is $5 per car

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