The 2014 Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival will be a lot of ballooning and even more festival.

“We’ll have balloons, blues and barbecue,” says Martin McConnell, chairman of the nonprofit Ascension Festivals and Cultural Council.

The balloon events will remain basically the same as last year, including evening lighted balloon glows with balloons shaped like Pepe LePew, the Purple People Eater and a pink pig, tethered balloon rides ($20, adults; $10, children), and a balloon contest.

The hot air balloons flying in the competition will be visible in the sky throughout eastern Ascension Parish. The public is also invited to visit Central Primary School, 41469 La. 621 in Gonzales, between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday to watch the target drop.

The blues and barbecue components of the festival are new this year. Fifteen teams of law enforcement officers, firefighters and “anyone who wears a badge” will compete in the Battle of the Badges barbecue contest Saturday, says McConnell, who is also sales and marketing manager for Lamar Dixon Expo Center. Live music begins at 4 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and continues until the festival closes at 10 p.m. both days.

Another new attraction, the Play Dirty Adventure Trail Run, is an opportunity for a unique kind of festival experience. Participants ages 14 and older can go through a three-mile course with 20 obstacles including a mud pit, cargo net climb, and tunnel slosh. The one-mile Mini-Muck is designed for children ages 6-13 accompanied by a parent. The course will be conducted in waves from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. “People know they need to stay active to be healthy and this is something different for them to do. It’s family-focused, safe and fun. If they get to an obstacle and think ‘this looks too spooky’, they can just go around it. We want them to have an absolute blast,” says Play Dirty Adventure event director David Poleto.

Participants can register at the festival or on the Play Dirty Adventure website. Advance registration for the three-mile course is $47, including balloon festival admission, a quick dry shirt and refreshments. Admission to the one-mile Mini-Muck is $27 for a parent and child. Event day registration costs $5 more. The spectator fee is $10 and includes a course map and food and drinks.

Enclosed tents with changing rooms and showers will be available for muddy participants.

“That way they can keep partying through the day,” Poleto says.

Proceeds from the trail run will benefit the balloon festival.

For those who don’t want to play in the mud, there are plenty of other new activities, such as carnival rides, inflatables, rock climbing, a human hamster ball, a bucking bull, powered parachute demonstrations, fireworks and food vendors. The Children’s Village will feature a petting zoo, face painting and a magician. Inside, visitors can check out Steinhauer Productions’ Best of Louisiana Arts & Crafts Show, which also runs on Sunday.

Carnival ride bracelets will be available for $25, which allow unlimited rides 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday or Saturday, or 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

Full weekend unlimited ride passes ($55) will be sold only at the Lamar Dixon main office through noon Friday.

No ice chests or pets will be allowed. Festival goers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

Festival Schedule


4 p.m.: Gates open

4 p.m.: Don Berry and Rock N Horse

4 p.m.-7 p.m.: Hot air balloon tethered rides

4 p.m.-9 p.m.: Lifeshare blood mobile

4 p.m.-10 p.m.: Steinhauer craft show, carnival rides

6:30 p.m.: Special shaped balloon inflation

6:30 p.m.: Jonathan Boogie Long and the Blues Revolution

7 p.m.-8 p.m.: Hot air balloon glow

8:30 p.m.: Fireworks

10 p.m.: Closing


7 a.m.: First competition flight

8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Bar-b-que competition

9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Play Dirty Adventure Trail Run

10 a.m.: Gates open

10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Recorded music

10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Children’s Village (fingerprinting, DNA testing by GPD and Fire Safety House by Sorrento Fire Dept.)

10 a.m.- 7 p.m.: Children’s Village (face painting, petting zoo)

10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Carnival rides

11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Car show

Noon: Powered parachute display

2 p.m.: The Elvin Killerbee Band

3 p.m.-7 p.m.: Hot air balloon tethered rides

4 p.m.-9 p.m.: LifeShare blood mobile

4 p.m.: Ryan Patterson & Red Headed Stepchild

5 p.m.: BBQ competition awards

5 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: Powered parachute flight

6:30 p.m.: The Chris LeBlanc Band

6:30 p.m.: Special shaped balloon inflation and glow

7 p.m.-8 p.m.: Hot air balloon glow

8:30 p.m.: Fireworks

10 p.m.: Closing


7 a.m.: Second competition flight

10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Steinhauer craft show