Balloon enthusiasts, head to Decatur, Alabama for a chance at an up-close encounter with these majestic flying balls of color. Have you ever wondered about the workings of a balloon? Do you know how essential the weather conditions are to launches and flight? Learn the ins and outs of hot air ballooning from the pilots and crew at the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic.
One of the few events of its kind that allows the public to get up close and personal with those who operate and fly the balloons, the Alabama Jubilee is host to a myriad of vibrantly decorated balloons. Four main activities, including the key grab task and a balloon glow, set the spectators up for a weekend of thrills and awe.
In addition, there are live shows, musical performances, and an arts and crafts show. Vehicle fans can enjoy the auto and tractor displays, and those who collect balloon memorabilia can shop for a reminder of this fabulous fest.
Decatur is located on the Tennessee River and the region of Morgan County is a destination waiting to be explored. Make Alabama one of your stops this camping season. One visit will not be enough.
Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic is a fantastic free event. Generous sponsors of the fest make the no-fee entrance possible. To see the full schedule, visit www.alabamajubilee.net. The weekend is jam-packed with family fun and entertainment.
Point Mallard Park is the festival venue, and it can be reached via several routes that lead to Point Mallard Drive SE. You may travel on I-65 if coming from the north or south. Located on the shoreline of Flint Creek, the park spans 500 acres. Wildlife is abundant in this environmentally rich area, so be aware as you meander along the Tennessee River on your approach. Expect to cross one or more bridges with most routes to the area. ALGO Traffic is the place to go online for weather and traffic alerts as you travel through the state.
Point Mallard Park has areas to park your car or rig free of charge. ADA accessible parking is closer to the launch field. If needed, the ADA parking spaces will be expanded, with drop-offs at the main gates. Have your accessibility placard in your vehicle window. If you would like to park further out to avoid traffic, you can do so and shuttle in for a low fee. Visit the website before you head out for up to date information.
If you are camping nearby and have a boat, arrive in style and park your boat at the Flint Creek area. The regional bus transit system requires that you book 24 hours in advance. If you are more of a last-minute person, call a cab or ridesharing service to take you to the area if needed. Shuttle bus rides are usually available from several parking lots for a nominal fee during the annual Balloon Classic events, if remote parking is needed. Shuttle buses are equipped with handicap accessibility features.
Camping at the Point Mallard Park Campground near the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic is not handled through the event itself, but guests can make arrangements on their own. RV campers to this location are advised to enter through the campground entrance first and then drive or walk around to the activity sites after dropping off camping rigs.
The Morgan County region and beyond offers many camping locations for you to choose from within the region. Select a campground within walking distance of the festival or venture further away to Athens, Rogersville, or Hartselle for terrific camping options with attractions galore.
Claim a spot at a campground along the Tennessee River with biking trails, or a resort with golfing onsite. Fans of outdoor recreation will enjoy exploring creeks and trying their hand at birdwatching. If you have an Airstream or Class A, you will have no trouble finding pull-through sites and full amenities.
The kids will enjoy being pulled around the field in a wagon as they get a close-up view of the balloons. Be mindful of tether cords as you meander along. Chase vehicles will be in the field, so keep to the edges as you walk. Comfy shoes are a must for the family; the field is on an acreage, and there is plenty of ground to cover.
The weather is usually pleasant during Memorial Day Weekend in Decatur, Alabama. Dress in light clothing for the daylight hours, but do layer your apparel if you plan to attend an early morning or evening launch. If there is dew on the ground in the early hours, you will have wet feet. Many balloon enthusiasts wear rubber boots to start the day and then change to comfortable shoes once the grass is dry.
Tote lawn chairs and blankets for seating during the launch and flight of the balloons. Small shade tents and umbrellas are allowed but must be placed along the perimeter of the field. A camera is a must; the photo ops will be endless. A cooler full of cold drinks is a good idea. However, public ordinances state no alcohol.
Teach the family balloon fest etiquette before heading out for the day. Beware of tether lines and do not walk on them or step over them. Give the pilots the space they need to safely operate and tend to their balloons. There is a no-smoking law because sparks and propane (used by the balloon pilots) do not mix. The event often tends to be a sunny one so apply sunscreen liberally and often.
Campfire beans are an Alabama campground staple. Wrap sweet onions in foil to be grilled alongside as a tasty accompaniment. Get out the dutch oven and try your hand at a peach cobbler. Keeping the meals simple is key for everyone, especially the cook. Check your supplies before leaving home. Camp stove fuel, charcoal briquets, propane, and cooking utensils should top the RV kitchen list.
Make it a Cajun-Creole night and head into Decatur for a delectable meal of shrimp and scallops. Sides can be sriracha slaw and parmesan risotto. If authentic Alabama barbecue is what your taste buds desire, go for brisket, pulled pork, or ribs. The flavors are many in this town, so choose your favorite and enjoy an evening out. The majority of restaurant locations are within a ten to twenty-minute drive of Point Mallard Park.
Visit the vendor booths to take home a print or pottery. Buy an intricately stitched quilt or a piece of sturdy ironwork. This is the kids’ chance to get their faces painted or play on the inflatable toys. Buy cool balloon merchandise and top off the shopping excursion with a funnel cake and some lemonade.
Drones cannot be flown on the Alabama Jubilee launch field at any time. Security of the balloon operators and attending enthusiasts is paramount. It is preferred that dogs are left at home as experience shows that the balloon burners often cause fright and stress. Volunteers will patrol the field to ensure the crowd is keeping their distance when the balloons are in action.
Fans of the grand balloon ascension know that the weather plays a big factor in how the festival weekend will go. Rain can ground the balloons, as can a windy day. Patience is essential. Balloon pilots must consider the safety of themselves, their riders, and spectators at all times. Remember, the pilots want to fly as much as you want to see them in flight.
A first aid crew is on hand at the Alabama Jubilee. Familiarize yourself with the location of the tent when you arrive at the festival. There will be over 60 giant flying machines at the festival, so be aware of the many tether lines attached to the ground. Advise the children not to approach the balloons without an adult and take precautions around the balloon flames. Back at camp, have the same talk about the campfire. Keep a well-stocked supply kit of band-aids, peroxide, antibiotic and antiseptic creams, scissors, and gauze in the event of cuts and bruises.