Pellissippi State recognized for balloon education efforts

Imagine the delight of elementary school students when they realize that one of their lessons for the day involves hot air balloons inflated at their school. It’s a scene that took place last September at A. L. Lotts Elementary School and for which Pellissippi State Community College was recently recognized. The visit to the school preceded the annual Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Pellissippi State was honored with a Distinguished Service Award by the Knox County Council PTA on May 4. Ron Bridges, a Pellissippi State associate professor of Natural and Behavioral Sciences who serves in a volunteer role as balloon pilot coordinator, accepted the award on Pellissippi State’s behalf.

The College was nominated by A. L. Lotts Elementary PTA for its efforts in coordinating balloon education opportunities for the students. Last September, Bridges and local pilots participating in the Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival visited the elementary school prior to the two-day event at the college. While at A. L. Lotts, they presented some of the science and math involved in the sport of ballooning. They even talked with the youngsters about the “art” in balloons – they discussed the many colors, shapes and sizes of balloons.

This is the third year that Pellissippi State has taken balloons to a Knox County school. Previous years saw them inflate at Hardin Valley Elementary School and Hardin Valley Academy.

“The pilots are the ones who deserve the credit,” said Bridges. “The entire balloon team is great. Our local pilots, such as Tom and Pat Roush, Roy Smith and Jimmy Hood, really go above and beyond in teaching the students about ballooning. Pat Roush gave us a lot of the ideas that we use today. She has presented balloon education all over the Southeast.”

For the second consecutive year, the festival has been designated by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast.” Festival features include live music, entertainment, arts and food vendors, as well as a children’s area. Two of the most popular activities are the evening balloon glow and tethered balloon rides (weather permitting). The event is an annual fundraiser for the Pellissippi State Foundation, which raises money that supports programs directly impacting students.

Festival dates this year are Oct. 1 and 2, with hours established as 4 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 and noon – 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 2. For additional information, visit or call 865-694-6400.

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