Wake County

Weather outlook for WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival includes mix of sunshine and showers

Spectators at the Freedom Balloon Festival in Fuquay-Varina watch the balloon mass ascension on May 27, 2016. This year’s festival begins Friday.
Spectators at the Freedom Balloon Festival in Fuquay-Varina watch the balloon mass ascension on May 27, 2016. This year’s festival begins Friday. FILE PHOTO

The weather forecast for this weekend’s WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival is looking up.

The high temperature is expected to be in the low 80s with sunny skies on Friday, the festival’s first day, according to ABC11. Temperatures will climb to the mid- and upper-80s through the weekend and into Memorial Day, when the festival in Fuquay-Varina wraps up.

As for rain? The National Weather Service predicts a 50 percent chance of rain after 2 p.m. Sunday. Memorial Day could also feature afternoon showers.

Friday should be sunny but is expected to feature brisk winds. Saturday looks to be an ideal day for balloonists and festival-goers alike, with sunny skies and low wind speeds.

Last year’s festival featured beautiful weather Friday and Saturday and storms Sunday, resulting in a crush of people the first two days and a trickle the next.

Like any major outdoor event, the festival’s success relies on clear skies. But because the main attraction – the hot air balloons – requires still air in addition to dry weather, the balloon festival is more at the mercy of the weather than most.

Organizers are working with a balloon pilot and meteorologist Roger Clark to install a local weather station at Fleming Loop Park, the festival’s grounds, which will allow people to monitor weather in real time.

Hazardous storms through the middle of this week have affected the festival’s preparation, organizer Brian Hoyle said.

“We decided to pull the VIP preview party that we had scheduled (Wednesday) night for our sponsors, because it’s always safety first,” Hoyle said Thursday from atop a scissor lift, where he was working to attach a banner near the festival entrance.

“We also waived off many of our volunteers from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., which was our first shift today, and that’s put us a little behind,” he said. “But we are back on track because we have people here working their tails off.”

Check out a complete guide to the festival here.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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