Hot air enthusiasts descend on Southwest Louisiana

Remax hot air balloon at  SWLA Hot Air Balloon Festival
Remax hot air balloon at SWLA Hot Air Balloon Festival(kplc)
Published: Jul. 19, 2019 at 2:04 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - You may have noticed several hot air balloons flying over your home in Lake Charles Friday morning.

That’s because Friday kicks off the first Southwest Louisiana Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Piloting one of those balloons may look easy, just release some hot air into the balloon and let the wind take you where it wants. However, according to Joel Sturdevant, it’s not quite that simple.

“This is an aircraft, so you do have to have a pilot’s certificate to fly it,” Sturdevant said.

Sturdevant has been flying balloons since 1979. He said he got hooked after going on his first ride.

“I just went for a balloon ride, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do after that,” Sturdevant said.

He said nothing can match the feeling you get when you’re floating through the sky.

“It is just sitting there, floating and watching the world go by below you," Sturdevant said. "It’s very peaceful, very calm, it’s not bumpy, there’s no wind noise. It’s just very very quiet, very serene, like I said, just sitting there watching the world go by.”

That serenity is something Joey Guidry can now vouch for. He went on his first ride with Sturdevant, and said it certainly won’t be his last.

“You know, at first you’re kind of leery and kind of scared, everybody thinks getting in an airplane, it’s fast flying, but this is so, you’re going with the wind," Guidry said. "You don’t even realize you’re flying.”

Sturdevant said rides like Guidry’s are why he’s so excited to be flying in Southwest Louisiana this weekend. Saying that it’s the first time many locals will get to experience it.

“Now I get to share what I think is a great experience with people who have never done it before, never been around it before, and this is great coming to Lake Charles, because you guys haven’t had balloons here in a long long time, so this is great to come to a community that’s never had hot air balloons,” Sturdevant said.

If you’re looking to take your first ride this weekend, both tethered and free rides will be available to purchase at the festival.

The festival also offers live entertainment, along with food, drinks, and a showing of the movie, ‘Up.’

The festival is from 5:30 p.m. until 10:40 p.m. on Friday, and 4:30 p.m. until 12 a.m. on Saturday.

General admission tickets at $15.

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