Pennington Balloon Championships festivities scheduled for Saturday night in Baton Rouge were canceled due to adverse weather conditions, but championship competition for hot-air balloonists remains on tap for daybreak Sunday, officials said.
After reviewing National Weather Service forecasts for Saturday afternoon, Executive Director George Richard of the Louisiana Ballooning Foundation, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, canceled Saturday night festivities of the Pennington Balloon Championships.
"We had severe lightning with a sudden storm that blew in Friday afternoon with hundreds of parents and children on the field," Richard said. "We just cannot take that risk again. The National Weather Service is predicting a repeat of electrical storms Saturday afternoon, so for safety, we're cancelling tonight's events."
Patrons huddling under a tent during the Friday storm were rocked by a lightning bolt striking a nearby tree, Richard said.
"That's never happened before in 20 years at Baton Rouge balloon events," said Richard, "but we can't afford for someone to be struck by lightning ever.
"This means Pennington Field is closed and all scheduled events are canceled," Richard said.
The Saturday night events called off included performances by all bands, the Children's Village, Flying Dragons Skydiving Team, the Mass Ascension of 20 balloons, the Balloon Glow, and the fireworks.
However, championship competition remains scheduled for daybreak Sunday, with 40 hot-air balloons and their crews competing for $35,000 in prizes, Richard said.
All hot-air balloon enthusiasts, photographers and families are encouraged to come to Pennington Field by 7 a.m. Sunday for the final day's competition.
For more information, log on to http://www.laballooning.com; contact media coordinator Leo Honeycutt at (225) 278-3963; or phone Executive Director George Richard at (225) 933-2027.