Dairy Fest's 'Moo-Lympics' kicks off Friday with hot air balloons and opening ceremonies

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 12, 2008 - The 49th annual tribute to the dairy families of Hopkins County lifts off Friday morning, when the planners for this year's Dairy Festival hold opening ceremonies to get the "Moo-Lympics" under way.

Don't be surprised to see a small crowd converge on the open lot between Guaranty Bond Bank and the Super Handy Store on Gilmer Street when the opening ceremonies get started at 9:30 a.m. The sight of a giant hot air balloon being inflated on a busy street will tend to draw in a few onlookers.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for this year's Dairy Festival will actually be the second event of the day -- some of the two dozen or so hot air balloon pilots headed for Sulphur Springs this weekend are scheduled to take an early morning test run for a "media flight" at 5:30 a.m.

The Dairy Festival really gets going Friday evening, with the 25 balloons that are scheduled to be here taking part in the "tether and glow" rally at the field west of Sulphur Springs High School. Balloonists will be setting up by 6 p.m. for the event, which has drawn more and more spectators every year to witness these massive works of art being inflated. Crowds collectively gasp when marveling at the bursts of yellow flame that shoot upwards as the pilots fill the balloons with super-heated air.

Children who aren't too shy might also want to ask the pilots if there are any trading cards available with pictures and statistics about their balloons.

Saturday will be the big opening day of the Dairy Festival, starting with a hot air balloon rally and flight at 6:30 a.m. from the Sulphur Springs High School field, then the 1K/5K Fun Run at Coleman Park at 8 a.m.

The annual parade leaves from Buford Park at 10 a.m. and follows the traditional parade route.

After the promenade passes, parade-goers can stroll down North Davis Street to take in the newest addition to the Dairy Fest, the Lone Star Heritage Quilt Walk, presented by the members of the Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild. A variety of quilts, from award-winning creations of recent vintage to antique, hand-sewn heirlooms passed down through the generations, will be on display at 14 homes on North Davis Street between Connally Street and the city library. Quilt guild members will be on hand to answer questions about the quilts on display, and will also be able to answer other questions about the care and storage of quilts, the differences between machine- and hand-quilting, the upcoming Fall Festival Quilt Show, and other topics. The quilt walk is free of charge, by the way.

Also on tap Saturday is the 4-H Project Show, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Civic Center; the Corvette Show, allowing Corvette owners and lovers a chance to enjoy the popular sports cars from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the Civic Center grounds; the 42 Tournament at 1 p.m. at the Civic Center Exhibit Hall (call 903-438-1620 for entry details); the Dairy Festival Queens Milking Contest at 3 p.m. on the Civic Center grounds; and the Texas State Champion Homemade Ice Cream Freeze Off at 4 p.m. on the Civic Center grounds.

The weekend's Dairy Festival events conclude with another hot air balloon rally and glow on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., then a balloon competition flight Sunday beginning at 6 a.m.

The Dairy Festival will then take a break until Wednesday when the carnival returns to town, and the final events on Saturday, which begin with the Northeast Texas LIvestock Association Junior Dairy Show and the Dairy Foods Contest, both at 10 a.m. at the Civic Center. The festival concludes that night at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center with the crowning of the 2008 Dairy Festival Queen at the Queen's Pageant.

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