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Artwork unveiled for balloon festival T-shirts, posters

NATCHEZ — The winning T-shirt and poster design for the 2020 Natchez Balloon Festival makes a big impression with a lot of tiny details.

The winning artist, Alex Felter, is the son of Ellis and Sherri Felter and grew up in Natchez. He is a 2012 graduate of Louisiana College near Alexandria, where he, his wife Lizzie and two daughters now live.

Five-year-old Heidi and 2-year-old Nina are just as thrilled to be watching the hot air balloons fly next month in Natchez as their dad will be, he said.

More than 40 hot air balloonists are expected to fly during the annual Natchez Balloon Festival on Oct. 16, 17 and 18, weather permitting.

Felter is a self-employed ad designer and an aspiring illustrator for children’s books and magazines.

He has done freelance illustration work since 2015 and has been drawing since he was 2 years old, Felter said.

“This is the first balloon poster art that I’ve ever entered in the competition,” he said of the winning design for the 2020 Natchez Balloon Festival T-shirts and posters. “I’ve always wanted to enter.”

Unlike many other hot air balloon art that includes bright primary colors, Felter’s balloon art has a soft orange and yellow glow as though the sun is setting on the festival ground at Rosalie from a bird’s eye view.

“I wanted it to have a warm and inviting feel,” Felter said. “If you’ve ever been up in the air, you see this hazy look but it is also really bright. I wanted it to be a bird’s eye view. Like you’re in a balloon and not just looking up at a balloon.”

Felter said he has never been in a balloon himself but used his experience in airplanes and his imagination to paint an accurate picture of a balloon’s flight.

The center of the art focuses on the festival ground bellow with tiny details like the Mississippi River bridge, the Ferris Wheel and people so small they look like insects.

“This triangle of a space is the festival ground and you’re able to see the Mississippi River and the bridge and just how vast and big the landscape is,” Felter said.

“Sometimes I don’t think about things until I’ve started. I like playing with scale and mixing big things with small things. With this, I’m able to capture something big and also something tiny.”

Felter also creates a childlike image with a cartoon sun and characters in balloon baskets. The scene is framed on either side with Rosalie’s columns.

The one on the right-hand side is adorned with a plaque that says Est. 1986, which was the year of the first Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in Natchez.

T-shirts and posters are available for purchase at the Historic Natchez Foundation.

Short sleeve shirts are $15 for youth sizes, $20 for adult sizes and $22 for size 2x and above. Long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts range from $20 to $35 each and denim shirts are $39 each.

Posters are $30 for a large print and $20 for a small print.

Orders can be made for pick up by calling the Historic Natchez Foundation at 601-442-2500.

Organizers said balloons would occupy more territory than just the traditional festival ground at Rosalie this year for a balloon glow from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, and Saturday, Oct.. 18, as weather permits.

The change allows visitors to have more space to social distance due to COVID-19. Viewers will also be able to drive around in their vehicles and see the balloons light up the bluff, weather permitting, organizers said.

Fireworks are also scheduled to take place after the balloon glow on Friday beginning at 8 p.m. Face masks will be available for viewers and facial coverings are required to be worn during the event, organizers said.