Up, Up & Away: New Smyrna Beach Balloon Festival big hit for tourists and locals alike

Videos produced by Headline Surfer Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / Above, hot air balloons land just after dawn Sunday at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport after going airborne in Port Orange. The video is set to the song, '99 Luftballoons' by Nena. The balloons were unable to take off from the NSB airport the three previous days because of high easterly winds that would have taken them over the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Below, a Re/Max balloon is all that is visible in the way of balloons Saturday at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest. The early morning manned hot air balloons that were supposed to take to the skies couldn't because of gusting winds. That was a bummer for Latoya King and her girl, Semayah, shown here in the cockpit of an airplane, who got to the municipal airport at dawn in hopes of seeing the majestic balloons in flight.

Latoya King and daughter Semayah enjoy the New Smyrna Beach Balloon  & Sky Fest / Headline SurferNew Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest lacked hot air balloons Saturday / Headline Surfer 
 

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Finally, the majestic hot air balloons were seen from the sky, but they were landing at the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport just after dawn Sunday as opposed to taking off from there.

That's because of strong gusting winds the previous three days that forced organizers to have the balloons take off from a field in nearby Port Orange and land at the airport instead. The decision was made late Saturday with the balloons packed and transported about 10 miles northwest in a vacant field in Port Orange so that balloon fans could at least see them coming in for a landing. Had they taken off from the airport itself, they very well might have ended up over the nearby Atlantic shoreline due east and that could have spelled disaster.

Latoya King brought her 6-year-old daughter Semayah to the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest on Saturday for one reason: The hot air balloons. But they were grounded due to gusting winds and it's possible the same scenario could play out again at dawn on this third and final day.

"She really wanted to see the balloons in the air -- that is all she talked about," said King, 29, of her little girl. "It's kind of disappointing to have a balloon festival without the balloons."

Semayah King enjoys cotton candy at the NSB Balloon & Sky Fest / Headline Surfer"She really wanted to see the balloons in the air -- that is all she talked about," said King, 29, of her little girl. "It's kind of disappointing to have a balloon festival without the balloons."

Semayah King enjoys cotton candy at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest. Other than the disappointment of the hot air balloons being grounded, she went on kiddy rides and got to see various plane exhibits.

Still, mom and daughter, who recently moved to New Smyrna Beach from Daytona Beach, made a day of it, with the kiddy rides, petting zoos, plenty of food and a big ol' bag of cotton candy. One of the last things they did was climb aboard the cockpit of a big fighter plane equipped with cameras to get their photo taken together -- $15 for three snapshots.

Big wing at New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest / Headline SurferA chopper took guests in the air at the NSB Balloon Festival / Headline SurferWith the hot air balloons missing in action, airplanes took center stage Saturday at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon Festival & Air Show.

In all, King said she spent close to a hundred bucks because her daughter was having so much fun.

King said she was surprised there wasn't more attendees, saying the crowds were larger in the earlier part of the day, but as the day progressed they got noticeably thinner.

A hot dog vendor who declined to give his name said he and other merchants felt the crowds weren't as big this year because admission was $5 a head instead of by the carload, though children were still free. This year, parking is free.

"They wanted to charge us 85 cents for bottled water and have us re-sell it for three dollars, but I refused," the vendor said. "You look around -- it's not a lot of people.

Families attend New Smyrna Balloon & Sky Fest / Headline SurferCrowds thinned later in the afternoon Saturday at the NSB Balloon Festival / Headline SurferParking was spacious at balloon festival / Headline SurferThough the balloon festival organizers claimed they were in a record pace for attendance, these photos taken at 5 p.m. Saturday Parking was plentiful at NSB Balloon Festival / Headline Surfershow a thinned-out crowd. Parking was plentiful by mid-afternoon Saturday at the airport.

Arlen Stauffer, one of the organizers, however, was insistent the crowds Saturday had already exceeded last year's three-day total of 38,000, even with Friday's rainout, though he wouldn't commit to a figure. "We're going to hit 50,000," he said.

Arlen Stauffer, one of the organizers, however, was insistent the crowds Saturday had already exceeded last year's three-day total of 38,000, even with Friday's rainout, though he wouldn't commit to a figure. "We're going to hit 50,000."

Brighthouse tent at New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Air Fest / Headline SurferThe two big advertising benefactors behind the balloon festival, The Daytona Beach News-Journal and Bright house Networks, had booths at the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport.

That's the figure that was used by organizers in pushing for taxpayer-subsidized funding to promote the event from the ad authority and publicly-funded Bert Fish Hospital in New Smyrna Beach and Halifax Health in Daytona Beach. 

Fast Facts: 99 Luftballoons by Nena

Album: 99 Luftballons. Released: 1984, Peaked: No. 2 USA; No. 1 GB.
This was one of the songs in the '80s to make a point about the brinkmanship and paranoia/hysteria surrounding the issue of war. The song talks about Nena and the listener buying 99 Balloons in a shop and letting them go for fun. These balloons show up on the radar as unidentified objects and both sides scramble planes and go to full alert to counteract a perceived nuclear attack, when in fact, it is the most childlike of things, a bunch of balloons.
Nena's guitarist, Carlo Karges, got the idea for the song after watching balloons being released at a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin. He wrote the lyrics and Nena's keyboard player, Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, wrote the music. Nena's real name is Gabriela Kerner. Nena's record company had no intention of releasing it in America until a DJ at radio station KROQ in Los Angeles found a copy and started playing it. They recorded an English version (the original words are in German, and yes, "Captain Kirk" in German is still "Captain Kirk") with the title translated as "99 Red Balloons" and released it in the US.
 

Previous Coverage:

Opening Friday night for New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest cancelled due to rainy weather
Posted Fri, 2013-04-05 22:16
 
Farm animals get their share of attention at New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest
Posted Sun, 2013-04-07 23:33
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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories narly eveenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.