The Pine Belt sky will be covered with colorful and creative hot air balloons next month to help raise money for a Hattiesburg community outreach organization.
The RISE community outreach program is set to host the first Hattiesburg Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13. During the inaugural festival, the grounds of the Forrest Countymulti-purpose center will transform into a fun-filled destination-complete with food trucks, live music, rides, an art exhibition & auction, and a petting zoo. The two-day event is free to the public and festival-goers and hot air balloon enthusiasts can also expect 11 hot air balloon pilots and attendees can even hop aboard for a tethered ride.
There will also be a Balloon-Meister with 30 years of experience on-site during the event to keep pilots and guests safe. He will be involved in coordinating the flight operations of each day’s event-filled sessions during the festival.
“What he says goes, and we have so much else planned in case we can’t get off the ground on the days of the festival,” event organizers said. “There will still be a festival and plenty of things to do even if the weather doesn’t comply with our desires for those days. So please, still come out, still enjoy the Hattiesburg community, and support RISE.”
RISE, a faith-based non-profit organization, has been a part of the Pine Belt for the last 22 years. The program aims to educate, empower and encourage women and men to rise to self-sufficiency through one-year programs where participants learn valuable life and work-related skills in a classroom education setting followed by real-world mentorship.
“Anybody can learn how to get a job or how to interview,” said RISE Executive Director Catherine Jorns. “But, if you don’t have a better idea of who you are and where you came from and what you want for the rest of your life, then that job will not last. So, we want to seed the future, not just for you but for your children, and create a family unit and grow in this community.”
Jorns said numerous Mississippi-based businesses have risen to the challenge of becoming employer partners and helping program participants join or rejoin the workforce.
“We are very passionate about helping our men and women find their place,” Jorns said. “Many times as we at RISE begin to nurture and walk beside our graduates, they enter the workforce through an entry-level job. Those entry-level jobs come from our business partners, and the more businesses we have available the more job opportunities.”
*Photo courtesy of RISE Hattiesburg Balloon Festival FB page.