This past weekend the second annual Balloons Over Paradise festival hosted by the Seminole Casino Immokalee this past weekend from April 20th to April 21st. This free event brought together some of the country’s top hot air balloon pilots and more than 30 hot air balloons, from multicolored and corporate balloons to special shaped balloons like Ella Phant the elephant, Spunky Flying Skunk, Miss Daisy and Sugar Bear.
The festival also included lots of other activities and entertainment options for everyone in the family from gator wrestling and flying dog stunts and live music to to performances by rocker Eddie Money who sang some of his greatest hits on Saturday 20th at the Casino Stage and the solid gold pop-rockers The Buckinghams who performed on the 21st.
We arrived to the Seminole Casino just before dawn on Sunday 21st. We parked the car at the casino and them got on a bus that took us to the Seminole Tribe Youth Camp where the balloons where. As we arrived I could hear the kids gasp and saw them jump up from their seats when they saw the Seminole Casino balloon glowing in the distance.
It was a little chilly for Southwest Florida. Getting two kids in the car before 6am is a feat onto itself and in the early morning craziness we forgot to even check the weather so we where a bit surprised by the temperatures that lingered in the sixties until 10am. The forecast for the day included scattered thunderstorms and a wind so the other balloon where not inflated until around 8:30am.
The balloons where not able to take off on Sunday because of the weather but just seeing them inflated all across the field was a breathtaking and delightful sight.
The kids learned about the balloon and their pilots, they watched them inflate and collected balloon cards. They where intrigued and at first a little scared, with the burners and how the balloons where able to fly just by heating up the air and ran from one balloon to the other looking at each one with wonder and amazement.
After the balloons went down we strolled the fair grounds where regional artisans displayed their artwork from beautiful miniature balloons, hand made jewelry and paintings to whimsical yard art made from recycled tires.
By mid morning most of the clouds that covered the sky earlier had disappeared and the sun shone brightly. The wind that prevented the balloons from going up provided a much-appreciated breeze. We headed to the Agility Dog Weave Pole Challenge where the children really enjoyed watching the dog agility course show and cheered the dogs as they jumped through obstacles and went trough tunnels. Around noon we took a break from the heat and enjoyed some sweet treats and freshly squeezed lemonade. We then headed to the pony rides and the bounce houses where the kids burned some off some energy.
At the Seminole Tribe Youth Ranch colorful kites flew across the blue skies and seemed to engage in a fun, acrobatic dance to the beat of the live music playing on the stage that hosted local award winning performers throughout the day including Indigie Femme Band and Grayson Rogers Band. Next to where Randy the Kite Man was performing stunts with his kites John Arnett and the Airk9z team of high flying Frisbee dogs where also putting on a great show. Those dogs could really jump high up in the sky and they where so much fun to watch. Both of my children where jumping up and down with excitement and cheering the dogs on.
Before leaving we walked by the Hot Rod Show where my little guy, who loves cars ran from one car to the next while he exclaimed “look at this one Daddy!. Isn’t it cool?” or “I love the red one I bet it goes super fast!” We finally headed to the cultural village, where the children where looking forward to watching Billie Walker and his gator wrestling show. Billie was entertaining and funny while he shared with the crown a lot of information about alligators and about the Seminole Tribe, the clans, how traditions where passed on from generation to generation and how things have changed and evolved today. You can learn more about alligator wrestling and the men who do it HERE and even watch a video of Billie.
Although the weather on Sunday was not ideal and we did not get to see the balloons lift up in the air or get a chance to ride on them the balloons soared up and filled the southwest Florida skies with a rainbow of colors on Saturday 20th. You can watch the highlights of the 2013 Balloons Over Paradise festival on the video below.
We are really looking forward to this event next year, it was a truly unforgettable experience to watch those beautiful multicolored balloons being inflated and seeing them all sway back and forth all across the field while the burners roared and the people watched in amazement. To top it off this wonderful event was free to the public and supported local charities, community involvement and local tourism.
You can learn more about the Seminole Casino Immokalee on their website and stay updated on their upcoming events on their events page and by liking Seminole Casino Immokalee on Facebook and following them on Twitter @SemCasImmokalee.
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