Hot air balloon company responds to festival frustrations

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 6:26 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Hours-long lines, no parking, even no entry for some. We’re hearing from many of you, frustrated, about the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Aiken.

We were at the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds with what organizers say happened and how they’re responding.

Many people are calling this a deflating weekend after the festival didn’t live up to expectations. According to some eventgoers, whether it was tickets, parking, or food problems, they feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth.

Western Carolina State Fairgrounds turned into a madhouse on Saturday evening when thousands of people came to the first annual Aiken Hot Air Balloon Festival.

“All in all, it was not the experience we were excited about,” said Elle Willis.

Willis lives just a few miles up the road from the fairgrounds. She says it took over an hour and a half to get there.

“When we got there, nobody was checking tickets, so we didn’t even have to buy tickets, and there were just crowds walking in,” she said.

The problem is that she paid almost $100 for her family to get in.

Desiree Rivera says she had a similar experience.

“We paid about $92 total for four people to attend the festival, and then I paid $20 for VIP parking,” she said

We spoke with the company running the event, Hot Air Balloon Management Inc.

They’ve been doing this since 2008 but say they didn’t expect that amount of people to show up.

“Nobody checked any tickets, nobody checked any passes, they didn’t ask if we paid to get in they just sent us to park,” said Rivera.

The company says people who couldn’t come on this weekend are getting tickets for next year, and they’re looking at refunds on a case-by-case account.

Willis said: “The fact that we had to pay upfront, and some people couldn’t even access it.”

To reach out about a potential refund, email

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