Smokey Bear Balloon coming to White Pine balloon fest

October marks a heightened risk for wildfires in Tennessee and October 6-12 is Fire Prevention week.

To help spread Smokey Bear’s message of Wildfire Prevention, Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest has partnered with The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to bring Smokey Bear Balloon to White Pine on October 26 and 27.

According to festival organizers, the Smokey Bear balloon will be going to “great heights” to spread his message of Wildfire Prevention.

Don Collier, president at The Resort at Governor’s Crossing in Pigeon Forge, is sponsoring the Smokey Bear balloon.

“It’s a message that needs to be heard,” Collier said.

“On average, nine out of every 10 wildfires are human-caused, so it remains a vital reminder for the public about their role in fire prevention, he said. “Working together, we can bring this message to all Tennesseans” said Collier, who personally experienced the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires of 2016, which impacted both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

“It’s the 75th birthday of Smokey Bear, the most recognizable mascot of wildfire prevention in the United States” Robin Bible, Fire Safety Training Unit Leader at Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said.

The Tennessee Division of Forestry and USDA Forest Service will be providing volunteers to help set up, chase and take down the enormous bear.

The balloon holds 145,000 cubic feet of air and is 97 feet tall with the basket. The total balloon weighs 1,130 pounds. Balloon set-up and take-down is no simple task, according to Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon. It requires 12 to 17 people working together in stages to get Smokey upright and ready to fly.

“The Smokey Bear balloon is a great representation of collaboration amongst agencies and promotes a unified fire prevention message,” Dale Wine, U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Officer for the Cherokee National Forest, said.

The balloon was built and sent aloft by a unique public/private partnership of volunteers, private sponsors, the National Association of State Foresters and USDA Forest Service. It is now managed by the Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to fire prevention and education and located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both the National Forest Service and the Tennessee Division of Forestry will be onsite at the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest, and will be providing educational materials on wildfire prevention to attendees.

Attendees to the festival have the opportunity to win two Adventure Flights in the Smokey Bear Balloon on Saturday morning and also a chance to win 30 tethered rides in the balloon throughout the festival. To keep up with these and other happenings at Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest, follow the festival’s Facebook Page.

Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest, Tennessee’s largest Hot Air Balloon Festival, is scheduled to be held on the grounds of Chilton Farm and will include activities on–the-ground and in-the-air. The festival provides family fun for all ages, from antique tractors and engines, local farm fare, live bands, climbing walls and kids activities.

The balloons will begin to inflate early afternoon, with as many as 10 balloons ascending in free flight, shape balloons inflating for static display and round balloons providing tethered rides.

The festival will feature 25 hot air balloons. The family-friendly event runs daily, beginning at 1 p.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Admission is free. Pre-Paid event parking is $20.00 per car. Balloon rides and parking passes can be booked online. All Hot Air Balloon activities are weather dependent.