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Up, Up, and Away!

Tunica to host hot-air balloon bash.

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At a media event promoting Tunica's upcoming Balloon Bash, I'd hoped to have my head in the clouds — literally. But due to strong winds, the scheduled media hot-air balloon ride was canceled.

The Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) had arranged the media's sneak peek last week for the second annual Tunica Balloon Bash, which will take place from August 9th through the 11th at various casinos.

It wasn't the first time weather has prevented hot-air balloons in Tunica from getting off the ground. The Tunica CVB brought the bash to Tunica County for the first time last November, but bad weather prevented the 41 balloons from taking to the air.

So the visitors bureau decided to change the event to early August this year, hoping to offer tethered rides in calmer weather. Although things didn't turn out as planned on media day, the CVB is hoping for better weather this coming weekend.

This year's Balloon Bash will feature 50 hot-air balloons set up at various Tunica casinos and resorts. The weekend event will feature balloon races, tethered rides available to the public, and a nighttime balloon glow.

Chrissy Garner, advertising and marketing manager for the CVB, said the goal was to expand Tunica's offerings beyond casino gambling.

"We really wanted to diversify what we offer to visitors," Garner said. "We have great gaming, dining, and museums. We just want to give visitors a taste of something different with a little added value."

At the media event, a massive hot-air balloon was set up in the open area of Tunica Casino Factory Shoppes on U.S. Highway 61. We were shown the full process for filling up a hot-air balloon and the work required to keep the balloon stable.

Once it was slightly filled with air, we were led inside the balloon, which reminded me of something from a fairy tale or a Cirque du Soleil show. The balloon's seasoned pilot, Mark Bowie, relayed information about hot-air balloons as we stood inside oohing and aahing over the sight.

Then we stepped outside the balloon, and the professionals got to work on completely bringing the balloon to life. Once filled, the balloon looked quite intimidating.

Tunica visitors can have a similar experience this weekend. The Balloon Bash kicks off this Friday with tethered rides from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fitz, Gold Strike, Hollywood, Horseshoe, and Sam's Town casinos. Later that evening, the balloons will be lit for the balloon glow.

Weather permitting, 50 balloons will take to the skies above Tunica on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. There's also a "fun flight" on Saturday at 6 p.m., with tethered rides and the balloon glow to follow.

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