Efforts of the North Texas Medical Center (NTMC) Foundation will once again turn the Gainesville sky into a vivid gallery of hot-air balloons, all of them available for local participants who need a lift.
“The Sky’s the Limit,” a three-day “balloon spectacular” fundraiser conducted in benefit of the foundation, is set for Sept. 13-15, at Gainesville Municipal Airport. More than 25 passenger balloons will coast overhead during the morning and evening while live entertainment and food are made available during the stretch in between.
This is the second annual installment of the balloon spectacular; country artist Pat Green is the scheduled headliner and a two-hour air show, plus a gourmet wine-tasting and dinner, have been added to an already packed weekend itinerary. Kristi Rigsby, the foundation’s executive director, said her organization’s primary goal is to assist the hospital with purchasing equipment and subsidizing on-site projects.
She said admission tickets, plus vendor sales, result in proceeds that ultimately improve local health care.
“For instance, a few months ago we were able to purchase a blood cell washer for the laboratory that went out unexpectedly and was not budgeted in the NTMC capital budget,” Rigsby said. “These are the opportunities we are looking for but in order for the foundation to provide this sort of assistance, we have to have the support and backing of our community.”
Friday, Sept. 13
Gates open at 4 p.m. There will be live music on the Budweiser Sky Stage with performances at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., hot-air balloons will rise from airport grounds in a mass ascension as they begin the first of three competition flights. They will return to the field at 7:30 p.m. for a traditional balloon glow. And wine lovers will have the opportunity to sip wine and enjoy food pairings during a wine-tasting event set for 6 to 8 p.m. Award-winning Blue Ostrich Winery of Saint Jo will host the tasting and food will be available from Morrison's Food Services and their regional chefs. (This is a separately ticketed event.) Also featured on Friday and Saturday evenings during the balloon spectacular are tethered hot air balloon rides at $20 each. The tethers take riders approximately 40 feet in the air, while still anchored securely to the ground. Prior to and during the event, free-flight hot air balloon rides can be booked for $200 per person. Spots fill quickly. Other activities include a display of military vehicles courtesy of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, a multitude of merchandise and information booths, an interactive children's inflatable play zone, displays and plenty of delectable festival foods. Gates close at 10 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Gates open at 7 a.m., with balloons flying in to the airport from outside launch sites until 9:30 a.m. And at10 a.m., live entertainment begins on the Sky Stage. WBAP Radio personalities will be making a personal appearance from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the War Birds air show will wow the crowd in the early afternoon. The evening session begins with a mass ascension and fly-out of balloons at 6 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. the balloons will glow once more before event organizers hand over the spotlight to the evening entertainment: Texas country singer/songwriter Pat Green, who will take the Budweiser Sky Stage at 9 p.m. Gates close at 11 p.m. (Also on Saturday night, a special "Champagne and Propane Ball" will honor show sponsors and supporters of the North Texas Medical Center Foundation. Tickets are $65 each and include a full gourmet meal and a fantastic view of Saturday night's balloon glow. The event will be held in the Tomlinson Hangar at the airport.) Regional chefs from Morrison's Food Services will host 10 separate international food stations, including appetizers, salads, entrées and desserts, as they compete for a chance to take the top catering prize back to their hospitals. Call (940) 612-8607 for reservations. Space is limited.
Sunday, Sept. 15
Sunday morning includes a final opportunity for visitors to bring the family to catch a glimpse (and photo) as the balloons fly over targets at the airport between 7:15 and 9:30 a.m. The rest of the day will include appearances by local singers, dancers, choirs and bands. Visitors are invited to bring blankets and enjoy picnics on the grounds. The Kidz Zone, merchandise and food vendors will all be available until the event closes at 5 p.m. Daily admission is $5. Children under 42 inches are admitted free.
Advance tickets will be available beginning Monday at North Texas Medical Center, all First State Bank locations in North Texas and American Bank locations in Gainesville and Whitesboro.
For more information or tickets, visit www.theskysthelimit.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (940) 612-8463. You can also follow the event on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.