Balloons are back for Lexington's Fourth of July celebration

A nonprofit status is helping the community get its balloons back.

LEXINGTON, Va. – For many in the Lexington community, Fourth of July means one thing: balloons. Just last year, a 20-year tradition ended, but it turns out it wasn't the end, just a new beginning.

"Hot air balloons are just iconic for the Fourth of July here in Rockbridge County," said Rachael Killingsworth, co-director of Balloons Over Rockbridge committee. 

The tradition of balloons flying over Lexington came to a screeching halt last year. Citing costs and maintenance, Lexington's rotary club didn't bring back the balloons. But this year, things are looking up.

"When they did not have an appearance last year, the community was disheartened by it and they missed it. So we listened to them and said 'Hey let's do it, if they can do it, we can do it,'" said Killingsworth. 

Last summer, community members got fired up and began planning for a new balloon event. In November, Balloons Over Rockbridge was born as a nonprofit, meaning local businesses and groups could help get this year's event off the ground.

"This is Fourth of July in Lexington. It always has been. People love seeing the balloons. It's just part of the history, and I guess with 20 years, you can now say it is history," said Robert Foresman, with the Balloons Over Rockbridge planning committee. 

Since Balloons Over Rockbridge is a nonprofit now, proceeds from each year will be donated to local charities. This year, the recipient is Relay for Life. Organizers say they are just happy to help.

"Every year, we're going to pick a different local charity to give the money too. And the 5K this morning went to the red, white and blue organization that supports local veterans," said Foresman. 

Foresman says after Tuesday's big event at the Virginia Horse Center, organizers will take a quick break and then begin planning for next year.

"As you can see, we have so much space out here, the possibilities are just unlimited," said Foresman.

You might say the sky is the limit. 

Organizers say aside from the balloons, the event is all about supporting local vendors, local music, and local beer and wine.

The event is also honoring Ed McDaniel, who passed away earlier this year. He would have been the balloonmeister at the event.