The Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival will have 30 balloons, including three specially shaped, and an expanded roster of activities to entertain everyone in the family this year.

Rather than just one day of carnival rides, petting zoo, face-painting and other games and activities, the festival’s Martin McConnell said those will be expanded to both days of the festival, on Friday and Saturday. A classic cars show and barbecue cooking contest also will be part of the festival’s activities.

“We wanted to draw people for the whole day, rather than just for the balloon inflation and glow on Saturday night,” McConnell said.

The festival will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults each day. Children 12 years old and younger are admitted free.

Carnival rides will be running during the entire festival, and balloon rides will be offered from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. both days, weather permitting, for an additional $20 per adult and $10 per child.

The first competition, which can only be held if the weather cooperates, is set for 7 a.m. Saturday with targets at Central Primary School. A second competition flight is set for 7 a.m. Sunday with the target also planned at Central Primary School.

Music is planned for the festival, with Elvin Killerbee taking the stage at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the Chris Leblanc Band following at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Don Berry and Rock N Horse plays at 4 p.m.; Mike Zito and The Wheel perform at 5:30 p.m. and Nik-L-Beer plays at 7:30 p.m.

Fireworks are planned at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We expect a lot of traffic, so we strongly encourage everyone to make note of the traffic plan on the website,” McConnell said.

A video and maps posted at ascensionballooning.com/map.html explain the best routes to Lamar-Dixon Expo Center coming from all directions in order to keep traffic flow smooth, he said.

From the city of Gonzales, visitors should take La. 30 past Interstate 10, take a left on St. Landry Road and a right into the Expo Center. From Baton Rouge, visitors should exit I-10 at La. 73, take a left on La. 30, and a right on Ashland Road, entering through the back gate of the facility.

From New Orleans, exit I-10 at La. 22, and turn left, then turn right onto River Road, and right onto Ashland Road, also entering from the back gate.

“Once they get close enough, people should just follow the signs,” McConnell said. “We have many dedicated volunteers who will be assisting visitors as they park. They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they will make sure everyone who wants to come has a place to park.”

Festival organizers remind visitors that no pets, ice chests, tents or outside food or beverages are allowed into the festival grounds. Bags, backpacks, strollers and wagons may be subject to safety searches.

For information and a detailed list of events, visit ascensionballooning.com.