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March 24, 2004   Email to Friend 

Family Destinations
Jeff Helms

Memorial Day weekend the sky above Decatur, Ala., will come alive with color as hot-air balloonists from across the country come to race in the Alabama Jubilee.
Up, Up And Away

One weekend each year, the clear blue skies of the Tennessee Valley come alive with a kaleidoscope of color as Decatur hosts the Alabama Hot-Air Balloon Classic.

Started in 1977 with competition between 17 balloonists from Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana, the Classic now draws over 70 aeronauts from 20 states for three days of competition during the annual Memorial Day holiday weekend. There is no admission charged to the public.

Races include the hare and hound, key-grab, and two fun flights. Other balloon events include a tethered fun flight and an evening Balloon Glow, where inflated and tethered balloons light up the night sky while a powerful jet of flame about 9-12 feet long feeds into the balloon envelope to help keep the balloon inflated. Races are usually held just after sunrise and a little before sunset. The balloon glow is held on Saturday evening.

Other activities featured at the Alabama Jubilee include the Decatur Art Guild Arts and Crafts Show, Tennessee Valley Antique Tractor & Engine Show, classic car show, the River City Riders' Harley Davidson Hangout, live stage entertainment, a fireworks extravaganza, petting zoo and pony rides, art contest, sandcastle building contest, sport kite demonstration, and an international food court.

More fun is just a step away as the Jubilee is held on the grounds of Point Mallard Park, a 750-acre municipal recreation complex that offers a 35-acre water park featuring "America 's First Wave Pool," tennis courts, ball fields, hiking trails, campground, 18-hole championship golf course and a complete recreation center.

The Alabama Jubilee, named by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, is unique in that it allows the crowd of approximately 50,000 to mingle with pilots while the seven-story-tall balloons are being inflated. Audience participation is encouraged through recruits to serve on crew teams to help inflate the colorful balloons and as members of the chase crews to track down and pick-up the balloons upon landing.

For information and a schedule of events for the upcoming Alabama Jubilee or for information on other special events, attractions and meeting facilities in Decatur, contact The Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 2349, Decatur, AL 35602, telephone (800) 524-6181 or (256)350-2028; or visit the website at www.decaturcvb.org.

History Comes Alive At Eufaula Pilgrimage

Families seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of 21st-Century life can experience Southern hospitality at its finest April 2-4 during the 39th Annual Eufaula Pilgrimage.

Nestled on the banks of the Chattahoochee River at the junction of U. S. Highways 431 and 82, Eufaula is a picturesque town noted for its Greek revival mansions as well as more than 700 other homes and structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors may choose to visit eight daytime houses, four candlelight homes, four gardens, an antique show and sale, or enjoy an afternoon tea at historic Fendall Hall. There's also an evening picnic at the Hamilton House and a barbecue at Cedar Heights.

Sightseeing pilgrims will meet famous and notorious residents from the past who "come back to life" in Tales from the Tomb and meet other former citizens on the Ghost Walk. Families can explore quaint shops downtown, visit historic churches, or browse the showcase of exquisite needlework on display at a local bank. However, many Eufaula visitors simply enjoy strolling down the town's shady streets lined with dogwoods, magnolias and live oaks. Along the way, they also can find some of the South's most treasured artists exhibiting their works in the heart of the Seth Lore Historic District.

Daytime tour hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and candlelight tours run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Sunday tours are from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Group rates are available for groups of 15 or more.

For more information visit the Pilgrimage website at www.eufaulapilgrimage.com or contact the Eufaula Heritage Association, 340 North Eufaula Avenue, Eufaula, AL 36027, or call the office at (334) 687-3793 or 888-EUFAULA.

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