The recent balloon festival held in Raleigh and Zebulon took organizers by surprise in terms of the number of spectators who turned out for the four-day event. Expecting around 30,000 people, more than 80,000 showed up.
The size of the crowds caused some traffic tie-ups and forced organizers to act quickly to alleviate some of the opening-night delays spectators experienced getting to the venue, particularly here in Zebulon.
But react they did and the problems lessened as the event wore on.
But all that seems like small potatoes when you consider the benefits such an event brings with it.
Zebulon is not exactly what most folks consider a Memorial Day destination.
The hot-air balloons, though, are an oddity for most of us. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that’s sure to bring people out. And, apparently, many of those people stopped in area restaurants and other businesses and helped the bottom line for local companies.
That’s arguably the most noticeable immediate effect of bring an event like this to Zebulon.
But there can be long-term benefits too. There’s no telling which family at the festival was visiting Zebulon for the first time. Perhaps, they’d never even heard of Zebulon. But a fun Memorial Day weekend can lead to return visits. Perhaps someone who discovered Zebulon thanks to the festival will one day seek the opportunity to live in a place that hosts fun events like a balloon festival or a minor league baseball game.
It’s hard to imagine putting on an event of any size and not running into the unexpected. The learning curve is steep the first time we do something. But that bodes well for future events, if Zebulon is invited to host the event again next year.
We hope that will be the case. We suspect those disappointed in some aspect of this year’s event will be pleasantly surprised at how much better version 2.0 will be.