One local nonprofit group is literally reaching for the sky in its efforts to improve the lives of Alamance County’s veterans.
Alcovets, a Graham-based organization that supports former service members, is currently gearing up for a hot air balloon festival to help fund a veterans’ “retreat” village that it plans to develop in the southern part of the county.
This high-flying extravaganza is set to take place at Alamance County’s Cedarock Park between Friday, September 9 and Sunday, September 11. During this three-day event, attendees will be able to enjoy an array of diversions, ranging from live music to car and bike shows.
But the event’s primary draw will be the hot-air balloons – which have long been absent from the skies over Cedarock Park, according to Bobby Chin, a member of Alcovets who also serves on Graham’s city council, “There has not been a balloon festival here in 20 years,” Chin told The Alamance News in an interview last week. “There used to be one put on by Hospice before the year 2000. But they stopped doing it. We want to restart it, and we hope it will be an annual event.”
When he spoke to the newspaper last week, Chin said that he and his colleagues had already lined up 21 balloonists for the upcoming festival. He also touted commitments from 40-plus craft vendors and at least 10 food trucks.
Chin said that, in addition to the lure of hot air balloons, the forthcoming festival will feature bouncy castles and other kid-oriented amusements, nightly musical acts, and decommissioned military vehicles for people of all ages to admire. Also on the schedule that weekend are various one-day events, such as a car show on Saturday, a bike show and a 5-K race on Sunday, and a special ceremony that morning to mark the 21st anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
The festival’s theme of remembrance will also extend to the men and women who have served in this nation’s armed forces – and particularly those who have struggled since their return to civilian life. In fact, the wellbeing of these former service members was the driving force that originally compelled a group of local veterans and their civilian sympathizers to form Alcovets in order to assist some of their less fortunate comrades in arms.
The proceeds from the forthcoming festival are earmarked specifically for a proposed veterans’ retreat that Alcovets intends to build near the Cane Creek Mountains in southern Alamance County.
Dubbed Chestnut Ridge, this rustic venue for relaxation, meditation, and prayer is slated to be developed on land that Alcovets received last summer from the project’s namesake and visionary – Artie “Pete” Benjamin Chestnut III. Chin said that he and his colleagues hope that the balloon festival will provide the seed money that’s needed to jumpstart work on Chestnut’s conceptual plan.
“The money raised will go toward the construction of the first phase of Chestnut Ridge,” he added, “whose first structure is going to be a chapel – as the [land] donor intended.”