Great glowing (Sept. 18-19)

September 15, 2009

The first time we went to the Great Forest Park Balloon Glow, M. was 3 and thought it was way, way cool. We arrived early enough to watch darkness fall and the glow begin, and he was entranced both by the scale of the enormous balloons and by the vivid brightness and heat of the flames. Then the crowd descended, he got a little scared, and I discovered that the former location of this festival was not particularly friendly for families wanting to leave early!

Last year organizers moved the glow to Central Field, the wide-open area near the Jewel Box, and eliminated the drive-thru viewing option. There are still crowds — it’s one of the few free events I can think of that draws absolutely every demographic group at 7 p.m. on a Friday night — but without the bottlenecks created by traffic barriers, things flow more smoothly in all directions.

The glow on Friday (Sept. 18) and the following day’s balloon race, also at Central Field, are free to watch. Saturday (Sept. 19) is when the festival aspect of the event will be offered in full force: the kids’ area, the food, the entertainment stage, the skydivers (scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m.) and, finally, the launch of the Energizer Bunny “hare” at 4:30 p.m. and the 70 “hounds” 15 minutes later. You can see the race from many vantage points in the city — we’ve watched it from the interstate overpass near our house — but watching balloons ascend up close is pretty spectacular.

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