Major fun, major fundraising

Pellissippi State Balloon Festival helps support area students

The Energizer Bunny hot air balloon will be back at the Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival this year on Sept. 25-26. The balloon is said to be the largest hot air balloon in the world.

The Energizer Bunny hot air balloon will be back at the Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival this year on Sept. 25-26. The balloon is said to be the largest hot air balloon in the world.

The Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival gets rave reviews from all who attend -- even those in “official” capacities, leading it to be named a Top 20 September Event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

What is less talked about in the major fun that goes on at the Knoxville campus every September is that the event is a major fundraiser for the Pellissippi State Foundation, benefiting local students as well as students all across the state.

This year’s event is Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25-26, at the Hardin Valley campus.

The ambitious event is a major fundraiser for the Pellissippi State Foundation, raising funds for an entire year’s worth of support that can make a monumental difference to students who attend Pellissippi State Community College. Thanks to the balloon festival, hundreds of students receive assistance in the form of new academic programs, technology, equipment and scholarships. A strong and responsive college infrastructure generates well-educated employees for area employers-and a skilled workforce benefits all of Knoxville and its surrounding communities.

Pat Myers, who as director of Alumni Relations and Foundation events directs the balloon festival, started working on the 2009 activities in October 2008. Long gone are the days, just a few years ago, when Myers was the committee, dependent on the assistance of Foundation staff members and several key college individuals. These days she oversees 26 committees headed by at least 43 coordinators.

“We have learned so much since the first festival in 2004,” said Myers. “The event has been successful in part due to the support of hundreds of our faculty, staff and student volunteers. This has truly become a college wide happening. We also acknowledge our local hot air balloon pilots and community partners. They have become vital team members, providing not only their support and guidance but also their commitment to education.”

The 2009 Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival has many forms of entertainment for attendees: live music, arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, special performances and children’s activities.

And, of course, there are the balloons, the centerpiece of the festival. The crowd-favorite “balloon glow” takes place both nights (weather permitting), offering a spectacular display of balloons ringed around Pellissippi State’s pond, all lighting to choreographed music.

Festival-goers can ride in a tethered balloon (again, weather permitting) for a additional charge. As in years past, a special guest balloonist will be on hand. This year it’s Glo Kehoe, pilot of the Energizer Bunny Hot Hare Balloon, the tallest hot air balloon in the world.

The annual Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival: tons of fun for the community but more than that a first-class fundraiser. The purpose of the Pellissippi State Foundation is to generate funds to help students. Former Pellissippi State student Celeste De La Rosa is one of hundreds Foundation dollars have helped.

“I received a Music scholarship at Pellissippi State, which helped me a lot, even with books,” said De La Rosa. “I was working retail and, as a single mom, knew I needed to get back into school.”

De La Rosa graduated with a two-year associate’s degree from Pellissippi State in May. She is now studying vocal music and math education at Maryville College, with plans to teach both in high school.

“I’m in love with Pellissippi State,” she said. “I’d recommend it to anyone and would stay all four years if I could. The teachers there work hard to ensure that we achieve success.”

The Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival hours are 4 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and noon to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26. Admission is $10 per day per vehicle. Admission is $5 per day per spectator for those who choose to park off site and walk onto the campus. Some activities, including the tethered balloon rides, have on-site fees.

For information, visit www.pstcc.edu/balloons or call 865-694-6400.

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