Callaway Gardens draws thousands with hot air balloons
As the summer drew to a close, Callaway Resort & Gardens hosted its annual Labor Day weekend festivities from Friday through Sunday, drawing thousands to its gardens and recreational facilities.
Each night featured a Hot Air Balloon Glow, where balloons were placed on Robin Lake Beach and illuminated, followed by fireworks.
During the day, attendees kayaked, paddleboarded, swam and sunbathed on the beach. They also enjoyed attractions such as mini golf, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and Birds of Prey shows. Food trucks were on site selling popcorn, Greek food and shaved ice, in addition to Callaway’s own food and drink vendors.
Social distancing was encouraged, though most patrons opted not to wear masks outdoors. Unlike previous years, tethered balloon rides were not offered due to COVID-19 contact concerns.
Father and son Phil and Liam Perrott came up from Destin, Florida, while Liam’s grandfather, Dave Rausch, lives near Callaway in Harris County. The Perrott’s had spent Labor Day there a few years back and enjoyed it enough to want to return.
“I think they do a great job with safety. If you look down here on the beach, everybody’s pretty well spread out,” Rausch said. “Callaway can do as much as they can do. It’s up to the people to comply.”
The trio played mini golf and basketball, while Liam participated in the TreeTop Adventure. Liam’s favorite attraction, the lake obstacle course, wasn’t available this year, but Rausch thought the paddleboards and kayaks available were a good alternative and more conducive to social distancing.
Kizzy Morris and Janice Cross, a couple from Atlanta, spent the weekend at Callaway — Cross surprised Morris, whose birthday was Monday, with the trip. They saw the butterflies, a birds of prey show and did the balloon walkabout, where attendees walked into an inflated balloon laying on its side.
“Very safe, [It’s] quite enjoyable, finding different things to do,” Morris said.
Stephanie Poole brought her son, Noah Poole, and two daughters, Viera and Olivia Poole, to Callaway from Tallahassee, Florida. They saw the butterflies, went hiking nearby and were staying all weekend.
“I just wanted to get out of Tallahassee for the weekend because of the protests,” Poole said.
Walter Finkelstein, his wife Tanya Miller and her son-in-law Sean Pierre were lounging in the shade on Saturday, enjoying the music being played over speakers in the beach area.
“The music is great. Can’t wait for the night activities,” Finklestein said.
Miller said they came to Callaway because it was the closest beach to the Atlanta area, where they live. She also has childhood memories of the area, while Finkelstein does work in the area and knows it well.
“I used to come here when I was around five, six, seven. I lived not far from here, growing up as a kid,” Miller said.
“So, it just brings back so many memories.”