October is upon us! Bringing with it a nice autumnal chill, visits to the pumpkin patch, sips on hot cider, and beautiful fall leaves. If you find yourself in Jefferson County and the East Tennessee area this autumn, you can be sure that you’ll find plenty of fun to quench your fall cravings. One of our newer events is sure to be a crowd-pleaser with friends and family, young and old. Jefferson County’s Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest returns for its second year, October 23rd and 24th, 2021, providing the community and visitors a huge fall festival with endless activities.

What is the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloonfest?

Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest began in 2019 and was a huge success. People loved the colorful balloons, vendors, kids activities and range of experiences that the festival provided. Unfortunately, like most other events, COVID-19 caused the 2020 event to be canceled. However, this allowed the Balloonfest team to have a whole year of planning and developing a bigger and better festival, even placing it at a brand-new location at 295 W. Dumplin Valley Road, Dandridge for 2021.  Though hot air balloons are the main attraction, Balloon Fest provides a range of activities that can keep you and your family busy all day long. These include wine tasting with the Nine Lakes Wine Garden, a wide assortment of food trucks, a craft fair, an antique tractor show, and live music and the nightly Balloon Glow Finale!

Up, Up, and Away: Hot Air Balloon Activities

The main event at the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest is, of course, the majestic hot air balloons. Several balloon-related activities are available including tethered hot air balloon rides, Q&A sessions with hot air balloon pilots, and a nightly balloon glow.  Check out the full list of balloon activities scheduled to take place at this year’s event: www.lotsballoonfest.com/schedule-of-events/

Tethered Balloon Rides

Tethered rides will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. They last about 5 minutes each and will only fly 30-50 feet above the ground. If a member of your party is afraid of heights, this is the balloon experience for you. At the moment, the ride reservation is full, but there may be a stand-by line if time and weather permit. Standy by rides will be sold on a first come, first served basis and can be purchased for $20 cash. Announcements will be made frequently throughout the festival concerning the availability of tethered balloon rides. 

Untethered Balloon Rides

Calling all aviation explorers! These rides, though currently sold out, can be scheduled with the balloon meister directly. These rides are usually 40-60 minutes long and travel significantly higher in the air than the tethered balloon rides. There is usually a waiting list available for each balloon pilot in case there are last-minute cancellations. 

Balloon Pilot Q&As

Our festival brings in some of the best hot air balloon pilots from all around the world! Q&As with the pilots are available throughout the festival, simply by walking up to the basket of your favorite balloon. Children can collect trading cards from the different pilots, which can be a great way for them to learn more about what it’s like to own and operate a hot air balloon.  What is a balloon meister you ask? This cool title signifies the person in charge of coordinating all balloon-related activities at the festival. He or she monitors wind and weather and ensures that all the pilots meet FAA requirements. 

Nightly Balloon Glow 

After a long day of exploring the festival grounds, what better way to wind down than to watch a peaceful display of glowing balloons? Soon after it gets dark, the balloons displayed at the festival will light up their interiors and float lazily as local bands play accompanying music. It’s truly a sight to see! 


Balloon activity is incredibly weather dependent.  This not only includes rain but also wind must be factored into whether balloons can inflate, tether or fully ascend.  The safety of pilots and passengers is always at the forefront of making the call on whether balloons fly or stay grounded. Weather updates and information on the likelihood of balloon activity will be posted regularly on the festival’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages, and at the event’s information tent located directly behind the main gate entrance.

So Much More! Other Activities at Balloon Fest 2021

Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest has many different attractions to keep you busy all day long. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun or a relaxing date for two, Balloon Fest provides countless ways to enjoy your weekend. 

Kids Fair

One of our most popular attractions is our kids fair! Complete with free inflatables, balloon animals, and children’s programming, this is the perfect place to let your children explore. Several craft vendors, including LJ Madwish, the Old Farts Art Studio, and Hip N Happening are there to help your children through several arts and crafts demonstrations. Hip N Happening even teaches your kids how to create their own sand art! In addition to our lovely vendors, we also have several educational programs available. For instance, the Appalachian Electric Co-Op will be leading a story time and demonstrating tree planting. Your children are sure to leave with all sorts of new information that may inspire their future careers one day. 

Craft Fair 

With nearly 50 artisan and craft vendors, attendees could easily spend both days visiting each and every booth. Whether you’re a fan of woodworking, painting, pottery, or boutique clothing, there will always be something interesting to investigate. A list of confirmed vendors can be found on the Balloon Fest website, so you can find out if some of your favorite local artists might be present.

Live Music

One of the best ways to enjoy an outdoor festival is by tapping your foot to an upbeat tune. The live music that accompanies the festivities is one of a kind. There are two different line-ups of local bands that will perform on Saturday and Sunday. Some of our favorites include the Solstice Band, Mighty Blue, and GRITS.  Check out the full lineup on the website to see when one of your favorites is performing! 

Food and Drink 

Balloon Fest is excited to offer a huge selection of food and drink for our guests to enjoy. We have food trucks from all over the area coming to provide you with unique and tasty cuisines. 

Food Truck Highlights 

Bush’s Beans & Food City BBQ:  Teaming up for the perfect combo is Food City serving pulled pork BBQ right out of the smoker and paired with those beautiful Bush’s baked beans! Stop by their tent for a hearty plate that is as filling as it is affordable.  Cruisin’ Cuisine: For a more traditional southern menu, try Cruisin’ Cuisine! Specializing in barbeque and burgers, this truck offers sandwiches and sides that are sure to please any age. They even serve mac and cheese in a waffle cone! From classics like the Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich to slightly more experimental choices, like the Pizza Burger, they are sure to deliver tasty, quality food full of heart.  Lulu Liquor Cakes: What better concludes a full meal at any of the main course food trucks than a drink or dessert? If you’re having a hard time choosing between the two, Lulu Liquor Cakes is the solution. All their desserts and cakes are made with your favorite drinks, such as the rum-infused pineapple upside-down cake, or the Oreo mudslide with Irish cream. They also offer kid-friendly desserts in Oreo and vanilla confetti flavors. 

The Nine Lakes Wine Garden 

Guests 21 years and older can purchase add-on tickets for $20 for entry into the Nine Lakes Wine Garden.  Get to know the wines of East Tennessee and experience a wide selection from up to ten local wineries.  For a more  Elevated Experience, guests can purchase VIP tickets which include wine pairings with local farm to table horderves, tented seating, and a fantastic view of the festival and hot air balloon activities. The cost is $120 per person and includes a “two-day” general admission ticket.

Enjoy An East Tennessee Hot Air Balloon Festival This Fall

Fall is the perfect time to visit Jefferson County and there is no better way to experience the colors of the season than at the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest! More than a hot air balloon festival, this event has live music, local artisans, a kids fair, food trucks, and more. It’s guaranteed fun for everyone.  If you’re traveling in for the festival, be sure to check out our eat, play, stay, and shop pages for area restaurants, activities, accommodations, and shops, so you can make the most of your Lakeside of the Smokies getaway. For information on buying tickets for or general FAQ’s about Balloonfest, visit www.lotsballoonfest.com.