By Lucy Berry, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Decatur’s two free weekend festivals are sure to attract big crowds, so tourism officials are offering parking tips to avoid the traffic.
The Daikin Festival will take place Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 at the Morgan County Fairgrounds. With more food and drink tickets, a grand prize drawing for a flat-panel, high-definition television and free happi coats to the first 2,500 attendees, the festival is expected to attract 18,000 people.
At a time when people are afraid to spend money, the cultural festival offers families a free, fun event that appeals to people of all ages, said special events director Kayla Riggs.
Riggs suggests that attendees arrive 30 to 45 minutes early to ensure that they get a good parking spot and receive a happi coat, which is a Japanese coat, or robe, that contains an emblem, family crest or logo on the back.
Parking will be limited near the fairgrounds, so a free shuttle service will be available to all festival attendees. Guests can park at Austin High School or Decatur Mall, where 30 buses will circulate every five minutes.
“I encourage people to utilize the convenience of shuttle parking,” said Forrest Keith, Daikin human resources manager. “One hundred percent of people that I’ve talked to who have used it before say they would use it again in the future.”
Daikin organizers will incorporate Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” into a Japanese folk dance as a diversion from traditional Japanese dances.
Additional activities like Japanese calligraphy will be available for attendees during the festival.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms in the evening.
“The show must go on, rain or shine,” Keith said.
The Daikin Fest will gear up for the annual Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Festival this weekend with 15 hot air balloons for people to ride, depending on the weather.
The Alabama Jubilee kicks off Saturday morning at Point Mallard Park, where guests can watch the Hare and Hound Balloon Race and receive tethered balloon flights later that day. Sunny skies and mild temperatures are expected Saturday morning. Meteorologists predict a possible thunderstorm that afternoon and a high of 88.
Mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s will make for a pleasant Key Grab Race on Sunday morning.
Partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures are expected Sunday afternoon, while a chance of rain at 9 p.m. makes the anticipated fireworks extravaganza on Sunday evening somewhat uncertain.
Designated parking lots will be available at the water park, water slide and T.C. Almon Recreation Center, but parking spaces will fill up quickly. Guests also can park at General Electric, where shuttle buses will transfer passengers to the event from 3 p.m. to 10.
“It is very difficult to find parking,” said John Barnett, president of the Jubilee committee.
“In the afternoon, the parking really picks up, but the shuttle bus will be circulating about every 10 minutes.”
The two-day event will offer concerts, a Memorial Day ceremony, antique car and tractor shows and art exhibits.
“This is probably the biggest event in Decatur,” said balloon pilot Mike Wahl.
“It’s a big event now, with bands, concessions and balloons. It’s unique in that there are not many balloon races in Alabama, and it is the only balloon race to have been around this long.”
Alabama Jubilee Schedule
About 60 hot air balloons will fly at Point Mallard this weekend, participating in two flight competitions, a hot-air balloon glow and at least one fun flight. Balloons fly early in mornings and evenings to take advantage of the lighter winds occurring at sunrise and sunset.
Saturday, May 29
6 a.m. — Balloon pilot’s briefing
6:30 a.m. — Hare and Hound Balloon Race
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — Arts & Crafts Shows (old ice rink)
7 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Point Mallard Auto Expo Antique Car Show (behind Ice Complex)
8 a.m. — The Southland Flywheelers Antique Tractor Show
9 a.m. — Two-cylinder Continental Engine demonstrations (also at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.)
10 a.m. — Tractor Parade of Power (around the Jubilee Field)
10:30 a.m. — Tractor games
Noon — Pedal tractor pull (also at 2 p.m.)
12:30 p.m. — Memorial Day Skating Exhibition, Point Mallard Ice Rink
3 p.m. — Music by Sophisticated Swingers
3:30 p.m. — Tractor club benefit auction
4 p.m. — Music by Angry Native
5 p.m. — Music by 8 Years Later
5 p.m. — Hot air balloon pilot’s briefing
5:15 p.m. to dusk — Hot air balloon fun flight and/or tethered hot air balloon rides
6 p.m. — Music by Crossfire
7 p.m. — Music by Kim Stone
7 p.m. — Arts & Crafts Show closes
8 p.m. to 10 p.m. — Music by Natchez Trace Band
8:20p.m. to 9 p.m. — Balloon Glow (Jubilee Field)
Sunday, May 30
6 a.m. — Balloon pilot briefing
6:30 a.m. — The Lynn Layton Chevrolet Hot Air Balloon Key Grab Race
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Arts & Crafts Shows opens (old ice rink)
2 p.m. — Music by Owing Adam
3 p.m. — Music by Catchfire
4 p.m. — Music by Dan Hocter Trio & Friends
4 p.m. — Memorial Day ceremony
5 p.m. — Music by Kacy Fox
5 p.m. — Balloon pilot briefing
5 p.m. to dusk — Tethered hot air balloon rides and balloon glow
6 to 7:30 p.m. — Music by Sister Luck
8 p.m. — Music by John Stone, Nashville recording artist
9 to 9:30 p.m. — Fireworks spectacular, provided by Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Co.
Note: All hot air balloon flights and events are weather permitting.