Oak Ridge Boys and Craig Morgan ready to rock at Indiana Balloon Fest

Hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes will dot the skies of Bloomington as the Kiwanis Club of South-Central Indiana hosts its 10th annual Indiana Balloon Festival at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.

The event starts on Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday with live entertainment, food, drinks as well as a ‘kids zone’ and an ‘adult zone’.

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The adult zone will feature zip lines, ax throwing and a mechanical bull.

The Kid Zone includes inflatable games for children of all ages.

Both areas are included in admission.

Balloon Fest organizer Vanessa McCLary said the event was a fundraiser for Kiwanis.

“It’s a way for us to get families to have a good time, and we’re raising money to help the kids,” McClary said.

She noted that the money will help organizations like Riley Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club and preschool services for the visually impaired.

“We want people to know that when they buy tickets, they’re helping kids,” McClary noted.

One of the events that will help raise funds is a silent auction, which McClary says will begin on Thursday.

The festival has always had performances, but most of the bands were local musicians.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, a Kids Fun Run will be hosted by IU Circle K.

One year, the organization was able to book Lee Greenwood, who is best known for the song “God Bless the USA”

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Entertainment on Thursday and Friday will be local musicians and tribute bands, but this year’s lineup will be highlighted by The Oak Ridge Boys and Craig Morgan, two national country music tours with a number of top 10 hits.

This year, SCI Kiwanis has partnered with Martinsville-based RD Productions to help organize the concerts.

“I’m proud to be involved in this business,” said RD Productions owner Rob Helms. “Because it’s like a real music festival for me.”

Craig Morgan

Morgan, a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 2008, has traveled the country for over 20 years.

His first hit to reach the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, “Almost Gone” was released in 2002.

Since then, Morgan has released seven more top 10 songs, including “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and his #1 hit “That’s What I Like On Sunday.”

After so many years on the road, Morgan said touring is an integral part of his job.

“But, at the same time, I feel extremely blessed, and honored that I can still go out there and do it,” Morgan noted.

While he always plays to very large crowds, which can easily top 30,000, Morgan said some of his favorite gigs are in more intimate venues.

“When we’re in these small environments, there’s an interaction between us and the fans that I think can’t happen in these big shows,” he added.

The country musician recently appeared on the CBS reality show “beyond the edge“, a competition show with other celebrities that helped raise funds for a charity chosen by the participant.

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Morgan performed for Operation Finally Home, an organization that provides mortgage-free homes to veterans, first responders and families of those killed in action.

A US Army veteran himself, Morgan believes giving back to American veterans is a duty, noting that less than 1% of the country serves in the military.

“And it’s this military that really gives us the freedoms that we celebrate in this country,” Morgan said.

The Oak Ridge Boys

The Oak Ridge Boys have been touring for decades, with roots dating back to the 1940s.

The current quartet of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall began touring together in the early 1970s.

Golden left the group in the late 1980s before returning in 1995.

The Oak Ridge Boys will perform Sept. 10 at the Monroe County Fairgrounds as part of the Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest and Monroe County Fair Fall Celebration.

The band are not only members of the Grand Ole Opry, but were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

Throughout the band’s decades of musical creation, it has received two Academy of Country Music Awards, four Country Music Association Awards and five Grammy Awards.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, the band released 17 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart along with 17 other top 10 hits.

“Lucky Moon”, the group’s last top 10 hit, was released in 1990.

“We can’t wait to come to you,” Sterban said of Bloomington’s upcoming gig. “We plan to have a great time and will do our best to make it a good night.”

The band’s signature song, “Elvira”, was not only a hit on the country charts, but also reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number eight on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart in 1981.

Sterban is the band’s bass vocalist and performs the lyrics “oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa-mow-mow” on “Elvira”.

He said having a song as popular as “Elvira” is special.

“Even now, even after all these years, we just did the intro onstage at a show, and people immediately get up and start dancing, they start singing,” Sterban noted.

While the band is expected to play many of their hits, songs from the band’s latest album will also be included in the setlist.

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“Front Porch Singin,” Sterban noted, features inspirational songs recorded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including gospel songs people will recognize, as well as new singles.

“(The album) is very healing in nature, these are songs that give people hope,” Sterban added.

Saturday’s performance will be fun for the whole family, he said.

“It’s just going to be a good night of good country music and good family fun,” Sterban said.

Hot Air Balloon Festival Concert Schedule

Thursday

  • 6 p.m.: The Dynamics
  • 7:30 p.m.: Tony Walker and the 2nd Half Band
  • 9 p.m.: Soul Street

Friday

  • 6 p.m.: Coner Berry Duo
  • 7 p.m.: Cody Ikerd and the Sidewinders
  • 8:30 p.m.: The Eagles Project (Eagles Tribute)

Saturday

  • 5 p.m.: Jake Dodds
  • 6 p.m.: Bigg Country
  • 7:15 p.m.: The Oak Ridge Boys
  • 9 p.m.: Craig Morgan

Tickets are $20 per wagon Thursday and Friday individually, with an option of $30 per wagon for both days combined.

For Saturday, tickets are $20 for the gold section and $50 for the platinum section, and kids 6 and under are free.

“And you can come and go with your bracelet, every day,” McClary said. “Especially on Saturdays, they can come early in the morning, so they will have wristbands every day.”

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No pets, coolers, food and drinks from outside will be allowed on the site.

Spectators will also need to bring their own chairs.