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SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2005
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Jubilee expects 55 balloons for festival

By Paul Huggins
DAILY Staff Writer

phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

The question arises every time Mike Wahl inflates his hot-air balloon.

"They think we can steer, like power steering," said Wahl, balloonmeister for the 2005 Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic in three weeks.

"Every time, we'll get asked, 'Where are you going to land? Where are you going to go? Are you going to come back here?' "

Then Wahl explains that balloon pilots steer by air currents, so they know only the general direction in which they'll fly, but never a specific route.

"But you get used to those questions, so we're polite about it," he said.

Fifty-five balloon pilots should be on hand to politely answer those types of questions at this year's event, which starts May 28 at Point Mallard Park. The annual two-day festival that began in 1978 will have few changes this year.

The Morgan County Hound and Hare Race is May 28 at 6:30 a.m., the Lynn Layton Key Grab is May 29 at 6:30 a.m. and a fun flight at 6 p.m. Organizers set aside the next morning, Memorial Day, as a makeup flight time in case weather grounds the Saturday or Sunday morning flights.

The Balloon Glow, however, was shifted an hour later this year to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, so the sky will be darker and thus more dramatic when the colorful envelopes light up. Between flights, attendees can sample the line of food vendors and tour the antique car and antique tractor shows. The Decatur Art Guild will present its annual art and craft show, which has more than 60 artists and crafters, and a student art show.

Other activities for Saturday include a first-time demonstration of gas-filled remote-controlled balloons at 8 a.m., the Decatur Kennel Club's dog agility and fly ball competition at 11 a.m., Forever Flying kite demonstration at noon, and live performances by local artists from 1 to 5:30 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., before the Balloon Glow, Sister Luck will perform live music, and Bishop Black will perform after the balloon glow.

On Sunday, Forever Flying will do another kite demonstration at noon, with local talent performing on stage from 1 to 5:30 p.m. A fireworks show will begin at 9, followed by the final concert of the weekend by Natchez Trace from 9:30 to 11.

Other than a balloon that resembles Tweety Bird, Jubilee will have no specialty shapes this year. Daikin America will unveil its first balloon.

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