Bigger and better, that’s the expectation for the annual, three-day Paris Balloon and Music Festival, an event coinciding with Tour de Paris bicycle rally.

The festival, which kicks off at 5 p.m. each evening Friday and Saturday at the Lamar County Fairgrounds, 570 E Center St., will provide fun for all ages, event organizer Carolyn Patterson said.

Attendees will be able to briefly take flight in a tethered hot air balloon ride, which Patterson said was not offered at the festival in years past.

“I think that will be a lot of fun,” she said.

There will be carnival rides including a parachute ride, a small ferris wheel, a spinning teacups ride and more, Patterson said. Traditional carnival games also will be present throughout the fairgrounds. The National Guard will have some activities set up too, including a climbing wall and a mechanical bull.

Inside the exhibit hall will be the cockpit of a hot air balloon that attendees can pose inside for a picture.

“It’ll be modified so people can get in, and there’ll be a backdrop behind the basket so when you get your picture made it looks like you’re in the air,” Patterson said.

A wide variety of vendors will have booths set up both inside the building and outside, Patterson said.

And attendees will be able to enjoy many favorite festival food options as well, Patterson said.

“We’ll have a lot of great choices,” she said. “There’s going to be Cajun food and favorites like hamburgers, hot dogs and a lot more to choose from.”

Each night will feature live music as well, including performances by RhythmAddicts, Common Ground, Rue 82 and Slightly Used Band.

And at night, attendees will be able to enjoy a lighted balloon show.

Those who go will be able to enter a drawing for $250, with the winner to be announced Saturday, Patterson said.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the hot air balloons will take flight, weather permitting, and people will be able to watch the unique aircraft as they go. Patterson said pilots will begin gathering and setting up around 6 a.m., and will likely take flight around 6:15 a.m.

Now in its fourth year, Patterson said the festival has grown over the years.

“When we started out, we had about 12 balloons and maybe 2,000 to 3,000 came out,” she said. “We were really happy with that turnout our first year because we didn’t know if anyone would come. Now, we have about 20 balloons coming and turnout is typically more than 5,000. It’s really been amazing to see it grow and blossom the way it has.”

Originally founded by the Paris Area Arts Alliance and the Paris Blues Society, the two organizations formed the Paris Balloon and Music Association in late 2018.

“It’d gotten to the point where we needed to do that, with how big it’d grown,” Patterson said. “Now we’re an official 501(c)3.”

Admittance is $5 per person, and children 5 and under get in free. Patterson said parking is free as well.

Patterson said the north parking lot at the fairgrounds will be for general parking, while the south lot is reserved for people with special permits. Patterson also advised attendees that pets and coolers are not allowed.

“I hope to see a lot of people come out and have a good time because we’re a family friendly event, and I truly think there’s something for everyone there,” Patterson said.

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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