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Bad weather threatens future of longtime balloon race

NATCHEZ — After rainy weather hurt attendance at this year’s race, the organization that puts on the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race may not have enough money to open the gates for 2014 without dipping into its reserve fund.

If the balloon race is unsuccessful next year, reports The Natchez Democrat, the committee will have few options left for continuing the event.

“If we have another rainout or a weekend (next year) like we had this year, we will not have enough money to do it again,” Balloon Race Committee executive director Babs Price said.

Rain scared off some visitors this year, and only two of five scheduled flights were made. In the race’s 28-year history, balloons have been grounded all weekend because of weather only twice.

Accountant Judy Wilson, the race committee’s financial manager, said about $95,000 is set aside as a reserve. In recent years, the race has made a profit, but Wilson expects losses this year.

She said final receipts from vendors and other expenses from this year’s race will not be tallied until November.

When a rainout occurs and the balloons don’t fly and gate numbers dwindle, the committee still must pay for everything except propane for the balloons, said Historic Natchez Foundation executive director Mimi Miller. This year the race spent approximately $90,000 for the musical acts, Wilson said.

Miller said if the balloon race is unsuccessful next year, the committee will have few options left for continuing the event.

“There would have to be community fundraisers to get it back or we would have to borrow money,” Miller said.

Miller said the committee will focus on making 2014 a successful event, not just for the race but also for the community.

From hotels and bars to restaurants and local shops, the balloon race was meant to boost businesses in Natchez.

“Our goal is to make it a stable event for Natchez for years to come,” Miller said.



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