Labor Day Weekend: Huge, Free Hot Air Balloon Festival in Anderson, SC

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6th annual Rising Above Cancer hot air balloon festival to take place in Anderson, SC over Labor Day Weekend – and it’s free!

There’s certainly something magical about a giant balloon floating peacefully in the vast air, without care and just being beautiful. You can see those and tons more at the 6th annual Rising Above Cancer Anderson hot air balloon festival on Labor Day Weekend 2023. The festival is only about 40 minutes from Greenville, SC. 

There is no entry fee, no tickets required for the kids’ zone, no admission for the live music and all the fun. This free festival raises funds through generous sponsors and vendors. If you do what to get up in the air, you can purchase a ride if the weather is favorable. 

The Hot Air Balloon Festival is part of the Celebrate Anderson Festival, with food trucks, music, activities, and more. All free.

Here’s what to expect. 

About the Hot Air Balloon Festival: Anderson, SC

This festival is the largest hot air balloon festival in the Upstate and more than 30,000 people are expected to attend. It will be held at the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center and includes three days of family-friendly fun. 

Some fun facts about the festival: 

  • 30 Hot Air Balloons
  • 50+ Vendors and Crafters
  • 15+ Food Trucks and Beer Garden 
  • Jeep Rally
  • Games and Activities for the Kids
  • Live Music including performances by Gritty Flyright and the Music Family
  • Concert Finale on Sunday featuring country music artist Martina McBride 
  • Laser Light Show and Fireworks

About the Cancer Association of Anderson

The Cancer Association of Anderson is a very small nonprofit in Anderson that supports local cancer patients. They raise all their funds by themselves so this is an important event to raise awareness for the organization and provide funds for them to do their important work. 

They use their funds to lessen the burden on Anderson County residents who are battling cancer by providing financial, physical, and emotional assistance.

I talked to Angie Stringer, who works for the Cancer Association of Anderson and is the event director, about how the festival was conceived. She was a cancer patient herself when she worked for Anderson County about ten years ago and had just come out of chemotherapy feeling beat up and exhausted. 

“I went outside and saw a hot air balloon floating in the air. It was then that I came up with the idea of ‘Rising Above Cancer.’” 

That was six years ago and Angie is in remission. She still adores hot air balloons. 

Festival Schedule, Hot Air Affair: Rising Above Cancer Event

The festival runs from September 1-3, 2023. 

Friday’s festivities start at 5 pm with the Kids Zone, food trucks, and vendors and end at 10 pm. From 6-8:30 pm, there are flights and tethers, and from 7-10 pm there is live music from The Band Silver. 

Saturday’s festivities kick off with flights and tethers from 7-8:30 am and the Jeep Rally goes from 10 am – 3 pm. The Kids Zone is open from 10 am – 10 pm. Live music starts at 4 pm and flights and tethers are in the evening. 

The Kids Zone has a bounce apparatus where kids can be hooked up to a bungee-type thing and bounce around. There are small bumper cars for little kids, a bounce field where kids can use bouncy toys to play, and a remote controlled car play area. There is also a petting zoo.

On Sunday, the Hot Air Balloon Festival and Celebrate Anderson combine for a fun day! There are flights and tethers from 7-8:30 am, the Kids Zone from 10 am – 5 pm, and more flights and tethers from 6-8 pm. In the evenings, they have the balloons do a Glow, which is basically lighting up the balloons from the inside using the propone. It looks so neat!

Sunday night’s festival kicks off with the gates opening at the William Floyd Amphitheater at 5:30 pm and live music by Gritty Flywright and the Music Family Band at 6:30 pm. Martina McBride hits the stage at 8 pm and a big fireworks and laser show goes off at 9:30 pm. 

Guests are welcome to come to the festival up to an hour before balloons are supposed to take place to see the inflation process. This happens in the field across from where all the vendors are located. There will also be some special ballooning competitions happening. 

Food and vendors will be there every day of the event. The full schedule is available on the festival’s website.

Booking Your Own Balloon Ride

There will be opportunities, depending on the weather, to ride in a hot air balloon. They are being offered apart from the festival due to insurance but at the same location. 

We do list the pilots that will give rides. It’s $300/per passenger and the flights are about an hour. About a dozen pilots will be doing flights and money is paid directly to them. For a list of pilots doing flights, see this list. Their contact information is on there. 

There will also be tethered rides from the KOA, REMAX, and other balloons. Those rides are around $25/adult and $10/kids ages 10 and under. These rides will happen only in the morning and evening and will be first come, first served. Additionally, balloons will only fly in the mornings and evenings depending on the weather, generally between 6-8 am and 6-8 pm.

What It’s Like to Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

We rode in the Discovery with pilot Derrick and it was incredible! I am scared of flying normally and was terrified right when we took off and saw the ground get smaller and smaller pretty fast but once we were floating, it was really peaceful and fun. I felt totally safe and my kids absolutely loved it.

The weather was so perfect and we got to see for miles out to the mountains and Lake Hartwell. The thing about balloons is that you can’t steer them and they go with the wind, which means you won’t be landing where you took off from. Each balloon has their own chaser car that follows the balloon in the air and then goes to retrieve it (and the passengers) when it lands.

So where do the balloons land? Anywhere they can that is safe. We were looking for a flat, grassy area away from powerlines and livestock and ended up landing in a lady’s yard. She was really nice and let the pilot and his team get the balloon taken down and all packed back up in the giant bag and we headed back to the festival. It was the coolest thing!

If you want to book your own flight, see this list. You have to contact the pilots directly to arrange flights. Derrick has been flying in hot air balloon since he was two-years-old and his dad runs Carolina Balloon Fantasies out of Easley. You can book a flight with him. This would be an incredible date night or birthday gift!

Tips on Enjoying the Festival 

As always, be prepared ahead for the festival by reading over these few short rules: 

  • Please no outside food or drinks. 
  • No pets 
  • Blankets and chairs are welcome. 

The festival will happen rain or shine but safety always comes first with balloon rides and they are completely weather dependent. Basically, don’t promise your kids that they’ll be able to ride in a balloon or see them in flight. If bad weather moves in, you’ll only have tantrums to deal with and well, that’s no fun. Make it a surprise! 

Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center
3027 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Anderson, South Carolina
Rising Above Cancer Hot Air Balloon Festival

Looking for more things to do over Labor Day Weekend? We have a whole list for that!
Celebrate Labor Day near Greenville, SC

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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