LAKEWOOD RANCH -- So long as the wind stays below nine knots, hot-air balloons will still rise along with the sun at 7:15 a.m. today for Florida's only Balloon and Wine Festival on the Premier Sports Campus.
The balloon launch is the start of two days of festival events that are open to the public. Tickets are $15 for adults. Children younger than 10 are admitted free.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. todayand 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Those who purchasetheir tickets early to seethe balloons launch may return at 10 a.m. and use them to enter the festival.
"It's still a go. It's always debatable in the morning.We have to see the actual wind. I don't think we're going to have any trouble with rain. The forecastnow shows it to be pretty reasonable," said balloon meister Bill Whidden, who will test the wind velocity each morning to ascertain the speed and weather conditions at the launching site.
"We'll put up a 'pilot-inflated balloon aloft' and see what that tells us. It's a toy balloon, and we actually watch the direction it goes, the wind speed, any directional turns, and make our
decisions based on that," he said.
"When flying passengers, safety is first thing you consider," Whidden said.
Tickets may still be available for $150 for the Smokin' Hot Cigar Dinner and Balloon Glow 6:30 p.m. today and for $25 for the Sip and Soar Sunday, both at the Premier Sports Campus. For more information, call 941-952-1109.
"It's been a great event so far," said Marjorie Floyd, board member of the Florida Winefest & Auction, Inc. "Since 1991, more than $7.7 million has been granted to 76 charities serving disadvantaged children in Sarasota and Manatee counties."
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.