Festival raises money for soldiers

Donna Howell and Karen Snider had a packed day Sept. 8.


"We came to see the balloons this morning, then we went to Aiken's Makin'," Ms. Howell said on her second trip before noon to the Ford Trucks Equestrian America Balloon Festival at Highfields Showgrounds.

The event featured an array of equestrian and balloon-related activities.

The day began with 21 hot-air balloons taking turns ascending.

"It was really pretty," said Ms. Howell, who took about 100 pictures of the balloons. A painter, she plans to use the photos as inspiration for her artwork.

Other activities in the two-day event included a horse expo, equine seminars, a carriage parade and a dressage exhibition.

"Every horse discipline you could think of is in Aiken," Randy Russell, an event organizer, said in explaining why the festival was brought to Aiken.

There were also several polo matches during the two days. For the novice fans of polo, announcer Tony Gregg filled in with background. "He's a great announcer," said Mr. Russell. "The novice or the expert can still enjoy the game."

The weekend event was a fundraiser for the men and women who serve at Fort Gordon.

This is the third large-scale fundraiser for the military Mr. Russell has organized. He has done similar events in Las Vegas for Nellis Air Force Base and in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., for the Marines.

Several wounded soldiers were given balloon rides.

Highlights of Saturday evening were a balloon glow and a concert by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band from Fort Gordon.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.