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Balloons and more highlight annual festival at Sterling on the Lake
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Visitors enjoy the Harvest Balloon Festival on Saturday at Sterling on the Lake. The third annual event raised funds for Challenged Child and Friends Inc. and offered pets for adoption from the Hall County Animal Shelter. - photo by J. BRYAN STILES | The Times

Families gathered Saturday for the third annual Harvest Balloon Festival at Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch. The event featured fun activities for all ages, from tethered hot air balloon rides and a hamster ball roll to a bounce house for the kids.

Along with the attractions, the festival offered music, food and a blood drive.

But the main attraction was the hot air balloons.

“Everybody anticipates when the balloons are coming,” said Jennifer Landers, marketing director for Sterling on the Lake. “At dark, we have a hot air balloon glow and it’s beautiful, great for photos.”

Landers estimated the crowd at more than 7,000.

Not only did the festival bring fun and laughter, but also exposure to organizations looking to help the community: the Hall County Animal Shelter and Challenged Child and Friends Inc.

The shelter brought 20 animals to the festival for adoption.

“Sterling on the Lake and all their folks have been really, really kind to include us in this event,” said Mike Ledford, director of Animal Services for the shelter.

“They’re great to work with. A great organization, they really give back to their community and the people who work in it. We’re just thrilled to be part of it and hope we can continue it.”

Robyn Shoaf, volunteer marketing coordinator of Challenged Child, said proceeds will help the agency fund new equipment and scholarships.

“It’s just been amazing as far as what this has allowed us to do,” Shoaf said.

Among the thousands in attendance were Skylar Rosenberg, 7, and her brother, Eli Rosenberg, 9, of Atlanta, along with their mother, Erica Brownfield.

They both shared their favorite activities at the festival. For Skylar, it was the football throw, because “she likes to throw the football.”

Eli’s favorite was the hamster ball roll. “Because it’s really fun,” he said.

Owen Niles of Decatur, a first-year attendee, found out about the event from his wife. Though his daughter wasn’t big enough for the bounce house, the highlight for his family was seeing the balloon lighting.

“That’s the highlight for us, just to get the balloons going,” he said.

Although the festival was a one day event, the hot air balloons will stick around for another day. This morning, residents can take part in the “Up, up and away” rides. The rides will last for one hour and provide a view of Flowery Branch from the skies.

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