Posted: Feb 1, 2012 2:22 PM by Brian Waldrep
Updated: Feb 1, 2012 12:00 AM
BATON ROUGE - For the first time in nine years the Pennington Biomedical Research Center will not host the annual Baton Rouge hot air balloon championship.
Pennington has been one of the balloon festival's largest sponsors in recent years, and last year the festival identified itself as the Pennington Balloon Championships.
Pennington say they are dropping their sponsorship because of concerns about safety following a storm last year and recent budget cuts that have limited the center's resources.
Last year a lightning bolt hit a tree next to a tent that was full of festival patrons before the storm forced events to be canceled.
George Richard with the championship said board members are scheduling a meeting later of this month to pick a new location. He said their first wish is to keep the event in Baton Rouge, but they are concerned there's no other site large enough to accommodate both the balloons and festival-goers.
Richard said Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez and organizers from the Lamar Dixon Expo Center had approached them in recent years, offering to host the championship if it ever left Baton Rouge. Richard said Lamar Dixon would be large enough to meet their needs, but their first goal is to keep the event in Baton Rouge.
The balloon festival is a three-day free event highlighting the hot air balloon competition, and offering live entertainment, fireworks and food for the public.