Overnight tourism stays were with Speedweeks/Daytona 500 and Bike Week
Videos produced by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / More than a dozen manned balloons take to the early Sunday sky at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. The Stephens family of Cocoa talks about the experience on camera.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Finally, more than a dozen hot air balloons were launched early Sunday. Only a few hundred people, however, saw them ascend into the morning skies as they headed inland to their destination in Port Orange.
So much for the hyped 50,000 attendance published repeatedly in print media for the three-day weekend New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest. Headline Surfer estimates attendance at 30,000 to 35,000 based on personal observance and anecdotal information from various sources.
Friday's opening was cancelled due to heavy rain. Saturday morning's balloon launches were cancelled due to gusting winds. And that left only Sunday morning for the manned balloons to rise into the atmosphere.
The fifth annual balloon festival, however, was far from a bust. There were lots of people, many of them families from New Smyrna Beach and other nearby cities as well as many others from driving distances throughout Central Florida who made a day of it.
As for all the promotion of it being a key event for overnight accommodators, that just wasn't a reality as hotels were already packed with families in Greater Daytona Beach for Spring Break and the previous Easter weekend. Bill Roe, propietor of Ocean Properties Management in New Smyrna Beach, said he wished the balloon festival were moved to May when there is less tourism activity.
Greater Daytona Beach just saw an influx of overnight visitors during the 10-day motorcycle rally Bike Week, and before that, Speedweeks, culminating with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Many of the balloon festival attendees were day-trippers like the Stephens family of Cocoa, who drove up early Sunday for the day.