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Pembrokes biggest festival takes a break
chamber newofficers
New North Bryan Chamber of Commerce officers. - photo by Jessica Holhaus

Pembroke’s Hot Air Balloon Festival will not be taking flight this upcoming fall, according to discussion at the North Bryan Chamber of Commerce’s Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday.

The appreciation luncheon was held for outstanding North County Businesses and their donations for the Hot Air Balloon Festival. In addition to recognizing them, new chamber officers were elected, and the festival’s future was mulled over.

Chamber members and new officers talked about whether or not there was enough time to pull off the festival, one of Pembroke’s biggest events. The consensus was – there isn’t.

North Bryan Chamber of Commerce’s newly elected Chairman Mary Warnell said eight volunteers have been elected for the event committee. Their goal during their first meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 5, will be to identify their roles and make some decisions about what the event will be, she said.

Even though the Hot Air Balloon Festival won’t take place during the last weekend of October, "something will happen," she said.

Warnell said that due to the time crunch the event is under, the festival simply can’t take place as it has in previous years. But the festival’s regular vendors already have their calendars marked for Pembroke, so some kind of family-oriented weekend can be expected this fall.

Tonya Raulerson, who has headed the Hot Air Balloon Festival’s committee for the last several years, said the festival requires more time than the chamber has right now.

"It takes time to do it right. It can’t be done in two months," she said.

During the appreciation luncheon, Mayor Judy Cook thanked Pembroke businesses for their active community participation, noting in particular that the community’s commitment was illustrated by the success of the city’s first National Night Out. She said that when talking with people who pass through the area, "other people see what the businesses are doing for the community," and she encouraged them to continue working hard.

Roughly ten local businesses from the chamber were awarded for their contributions to the Hot Air Balloon Festival, followed by guest speakers Janice Blunt, director of Bryan County United Way, and Tara Jennings, executive director for special services with Bryan County Family Connection.

Blunt said when she first came to the county a year ago with United Way, she wanted to make it clear to the county she’s not here for any handouts, but to "offer services."

"We collaborate," she said. "Anytime there’s a grant, United Way swings a lot of weight. I’m here to serve you."

Bryan County United Way offers over 20 agencies and funded programs for county residents, ranging from American Red Cross to Consumer Credit Counseling, Girl Scouts, and Rape Crisis Center, among others.

Bryan County Family Connection offers non-traditional services such as back to school supplies assistance, the Drug Free Coalition, Teens Being Teens, and the Summer Lunch program for local children; and senior citizen programs including transit and public transportation assistance. Jennings said thanks to help from local businesses, parents, and volunteers, their programs are able to happen and make the community a better place.


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