Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival Marks Six Years

Balloon Festival Less than Three Weeks Away

For one night only, the Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival returns for its sixth year. On Saturday, August 19, professional balloonists will provide tethered balloon rides into the Smoky Mountain skies, weather permitting.

The Great Smoky Mountain Balloon Fest attracts roughly 10,000 people a year, and all proceeds go to the Townsend/Cades Cove Gateway Alliance (TCGA) non-profit.  The Townsend Volunteer Fire Department, Townsend School, and the Railroad Museum financially benefited from the 2022 GSM Hot Air Balloon Festival.

New this year, The AB Project will be selling its reusable water bottles on site, reducing the plastic waste generated during the festival.  A bottle refilling station will be centrally located near the balloon viewing area.

During Saturday’s festival, nearly a dozen professional balloonists take visitors into the evening sky, providing a picturesque aerial view of glowing hot air balloons combined with a Smoky Mountain sunset.

On the ground, visitors will find family-friendly activities at Townsend Visitor Center, 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway from 4 – 9 p.m. Adults and children can enjoy a DJ and activities while more than 30 crafters demonstrate and sell their artwork.  Twenty-four food trucks and concession vendors will be there;  a beer tent is also on site.

“This year, we’re giving visitors a chance to walk through a hot air balloon,” explained Carmen Simpher, festival organizer and Little Arrow Outdoor CEO.  “Not many people can say they have been in a hot air balloon and we are happy to provide that experience!”

Returning this year is the popular VIP experience on the Festival Grounds.  VIPs get their own tent, catered meal, parking, tethered balloon ride, and memorabilia from the 2023 Great Smoky Mountain Balloon Fest.

Kim Mitchell, director of tourism at the Blount Partnership, expressed excitement over the annual event.

“This is our sixth year hosting the Greater Smoky Mountain Balloon Festival, and each year we give thousands of people a different view of the Smoky Mountains,” said Mitchell. “People have an opportunity to see the Smokies and Blount County in a way few can; we love to showcase the Peaceful Side of the Smokies in unexpected ways.”

Gates open at 3 pm with tethered rides starting at 4 pm (weather permitting). Admission is $5 per guest with advance parking costing $20. Due to nearby construction, parking passes must be purchased in advance.

Parking passes are offered on the website ( under tickets. Day of Festival parking is $25 at the gate and guests who park in private lots or are dropped off will pay a $5 admission fee.

For more information on the Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival, visit