Fun Fest was started in 1981 “to promote unity, harmony, fellowship and cooperation among people in the greater Kingsport Area.” And for the past three decades, that’s exactly what they’ve done. With cultural events, artistic opportunities and big-name concerts year after year (this year’s lineup includes Train, Mercy Me and Martina McBride!), that vision continues to be brought to life.
Out of all the Fun Fest traditions, one of the most highly anticipated is the hot air balloon rally. Over 20 hot air balloons will launch over the festival, and it’s a sight you don’t want to miss—especially the GLOW on 7/23. After the sun goes down, the hot air balloons will take to the sky. The only light to be seen will be the balloon burners, filling the night sky like larger-than-life nightlights.
In the spirit of the festival, here are 5 fun facts about hot air balloons that we’re willing to bet you didn’t know about!
- A rooster, a duck and a sheep walked into a bar…just kidding. But they really did climb into a hot air balloon. In 1783, the first balloon was set to take flight in France. Much like space monkeys in Moscow, these three barnyard friends were chosen to be the test subjects. The tethered balloon flew successfully for about 8 minutes, 1500 feet up in the air before landing safely.
- I sentence you to…flight? After the successful animal test flights, Louis XVI decided it was time to have human pilots try the hot air balloons out. His solution? Decree that condemned criminals would be the next guinea pigs. Luckily, a scientist and an aristocrat talked him out of it. The two pilots were the first to experience sustained flight, and they avoided giving the hardened criminals a high-flying getaway vehicle.
- En garde! In 1808, the people of Paris gathered for what they thought was a balloon race. Looking skyward towards the two hot air balloons, they suddenly heard two shots. The two pilots, involved in a love triangle, decided to take their duel to the skies. One balloon was punctured and crashed into the buildings below. But the other pilot safely landed on the ground…and allegedly into Mademoiselle Tirevit’s heart.
- I spy with my little eye…During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established the Balloon Corps – seven balloons that were sent out to spy on enemy movement. The Confederate army rose to the challenge and created its own balloon, out of fine dress silk, that was eventually captured. Since these were pretty big targets that were very vulnerable to enemy fire, the Balloon Corps didn’t last past 1863.
A balloon with a view! At the 2010 Bristol International Balloon Festival (in the UK—not our neck of the woods!), Christian Brown introduced the high-flying world to his glass-bottom hot air balloon. Seeing as how the trial flights ended “with passengers shrieking and screaming with fear,” we’re pretty sure this thrill ride can stay on the other side of The Pond.