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See the photos as hot air balloons soar over the Gulf Coast

The 19th Annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival kicked off on Thursday night as hot air balloons soared over Foley, Alabama, and lit up the fields around OWA Parks and Resort.

The festival, which runs May 4-6, features over 50 hot air balloons from all over the country. Visitors can enjoy music, vendors and tethered hot air balloon rides — tickets for which must be purchased in advance. Admission to the festival itself is free.

The festival runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday but the best time to see the balloons are around dawn and dusk — the only times of day that are favorable enough for hot air balloons to fly.

The balloons are scheduled to fly over Foley Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the festival opens between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., weather permitting. The balloons will also be lit up on the ground for a balloon “glow” on Friday and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., weather permitting.

Check out photos from the first day of the festival.

A hot air balloon called “Bee Bee King” flies over the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon called “Bee Bee King” flies over the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloons fire their burners for a “balloon glow” during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloons fire their burners for a “balloon glow” during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A crew member helps get a hot air balloon up during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A crew member helps get a hot air balloon up during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A couple takes a selfie as hot air balloons fly by during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A couple takes a selfie as hot air balloons fly by during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Festival attendees shop for hot air balloon themed merchandise during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Festival attendees shop for hot air balloon themed merchandise during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloons fly over OWA during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloons fly over OWA during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Maui McCraney, right, and Amy Culmoney, of Orange Beach, Alabama, sit inside a hot airballon basket during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Maui McCraney, right, and Amy Culmoney, of Orange Beach, Alabama, sit inside a hot airballon basket during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Festival attendees wander through food and merchant tents during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Festival attendees wander through food and merchant tents during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloon pilots fire their burners to light up their balloons during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloon pilots fire their burners to light up their balloons during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside “Laska the Unicorn”, a unicorn shaped hot air balloon, during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside “Laska the Unicorn”, a unicorn shaped hot air balloon, during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside his balloon during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside his balloon during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloon crew members help get their balloon up during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Hot air balloon crew members help get their balloon up during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside his balloon during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
A hot air balloon pilot fires the burners inside his balloon during the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival at OWA in Foley, Alabama on Thursday, May 4, 2023.