Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Commissioners make balloon fest for veterans an annual event

The heights that a local veterans group reached with a recent balloon festival have inspired Alamance County’s commissioners to make the event a regular occurrence.

On Monday, the commissioners voted to continue holding this high-flying spectacle each year in recognition of the success that Graham-based Alcovets had with its first annual balloon festival last month.

An organization founded to support discharged servicemen and women, Alcovets had staged this gathering at Alamance County’s Cedarock Park in order to raise funds for a proposed veterans retreat in the Bass Mountain area.

Bobby Chin, a member of Alcovets who serves on Graham’s city council, assured the commissioners that the festival not only achieved its intended purpose but also did gave hot-air ballooning a prominence it hasn’t had since the county’s last balloon festival more than two decades ago.

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Bobby Chin

“The weather was a challenge,” Chin told the commissioners on Monday. “But even then, we had a great turnout…and all in all, it was a successful return of the balloon festival to Alamance County.”

Chin added that Alcovets has already taken a step to make the festival a perennial event by paying to have Cedarock wired to provide electrical power for soundstages, food vendors, and other activities. John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners as well as an amateur balloonist himself, noted that this electrical work wasn’t the only thing that the county ultimately got out of the bash which Alcovets held.

“The county came out a winner to $14,000 [in upgrades] plus $4,000 in cash for allowing this event to take place on county property,” the board’s chairman recalled during Chin’s presentation.

Meanwhile, Chuck Talley, a local business owner and a member of Alcovets, told the commissioners that his organization has already begun to funnel the proceeds from last month’s bonanza into the development of its Chestnut Ridge veterans retreat in Snow Camp.

Chuck Talley

Talley noted that the group has recently completed a well to provide water for the proposed getaway, which he said he hopes will eventually provide a quiet place for vets to decompress and shed their post-traumatic anxiety.

“I don’t want a facility there where you have to sign up,” he added. “Our goal is to not have it just one week a year but kind of a swinging door.”

In the end, the commissioners unanimously voted to continue holding the balloon festival at Cedarock Park in the second weekend of September.

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