Hot air balloon company responds to festival frustrations

AIKEN, SC (WRDW/WAGT) – Hour-long lines, no parking, not even entry for some. We hear many of you frustrated talking about the Aiken Hot Air Balloon Festival.

We were at the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds with what the organizers say happened and how they reacted.

Many people call it a deflating weekend after the festival fell short of expectations. According to some spectators, whether it’s problems with tickets, parking or food, they feel like they haven’t gotten their money’s worth.

The Western Carolina State Fairgrounds turned into a lunatic asylum on Saturday night when thousands turned out for the first annual Aiken Hot Air Balloon Festival.

“Overall, it wasn’t the experience we were excited about,” Elle Willis said.

Willis lives a few miles from the fairgrounds. She says it took over an hour and a half to get there.

“When we got there, nobody was checking tickets, we didn’t even have to buy tickets, and there were just crowds walking around,” she said.

The problem is that she paid nearly $100 to get her family in.

Desiree Rivera says she had a similar experience.

“We paid about $92 in total for four people to attend the festival, and then I paid $20 for VIP parking,” she said.

We spoke with the company organizing the event, Hot Air Balloon Management Inc.

They’ve been doing this since 2008, but say they didn’t expect so many people to show up.

“Nobody checked the tickets, nobody checked the passes, they didn’t ask if we paid to get in, they just sent us to park,” Rivera said.

The company says people who couldn’t make it over the weekend are getting tickets for next year and considering refunds on a case-by-case basis.

Willis said: “The fact that we had to pay up front and some people couldn’t even get in.”

To contact a possible refund, email info@balloonshows.com.

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