People crowd the multipurpose center for the Hattiesburg Balloon Festival

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – RISE kicked off its first hot air balloon festival Friday night at the Forrest County Multipurpose Center.

The organization will use the proceeds from this festival to help individuals become self-sufficient.

“The donations we received this weekend will be used to get these people into school that year and then work with them to help them find these careers, not just jobs,” said RISE CEO Catherine Jorns. . “It’s a helping hand, not a handout, as we walk alongside them.”

The wait for this event was exorbitant, with the queue forming to enter the festival over an hour before the doors opened.

Thousands of people came for the chance to sit or fly in the balloons.

Hot air balloon pilot Frank Anger said a festival like this was how he started flying.

“We had a festival in Tupelo, Mississippi, and I was in charge of the activities, and one of them was hot air balloons,” Anger said. “When he [the pilot] set up, he said, ‘Have you ever flown?’ I said no.’ He said jump and let’s go. I did, and a week later I was taking hang-gliding lessons.

The weather eased on day one, postponing the glow event, but day two is expected to draw the masses.

“He never gets old,” Anger said. “We like to do it because it draws a crowd everywhere we go.”

“We’re so excited about this festival and what it’s going to do not just for RISE but for the whole community,” Jorns said. “We look forward to building on this and growing together in and around Hattiesburg.”

Day two festivities will last from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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