Organizers launch plans for 2019 Sculpture Festival



This year, planners are taking the Liberty Hill International Sculpture Festival to new heights – literally.

For more than four decades a key part of Liberty Hill’s heritage has been grounded in the sculptures now located on the Intermediate School campus adjacent to Lions Foundation Park. However, that heritage has not always been well understood or recognized, so organizers of the 2019 Sculpture Festival are hoping that launching a new facet to this year’s event will lift that message and carry it across the community and beyond.

The festival, set for Oct. 19, will include a visit from 10 hot air balloons in addition to the annual tradition of on-site working sculptors, tours, vendors and food.

“I’m excited about the balloons, I think it is a great idea,” said Larry Floyd with the Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which owns the sculptures and the park. “I feel like it will bring a tremendous amount of exposure and attention to the sculpture garden and the celebration and hopefully everyone will want to come and enjoy the presentation we are going to have.”

Nine balloons will launch early in the morning on Saturday, providing festival attendees a chance to enjoy the spectacle up close.

“Saturday morning we are going to do an inflation and fly out of the field,” said Josh Sneed, a balloon pilot and organizer for that portion of the two-day festival. “So if people want to come out and decide they’d like to be as close to the balloons as they can or if they want to help, we always like to have more people come out and help.”

One balloon will stay in Liberty Hill to give tethered hot air balloon rides throughout the day, taking the balloon up 30 or so feet and bringing passengers back down.

In the evening they will all converge again for closer interaction with the public during a street dance at the park.

“We will all have the balloons back at the field and they will be inflated and sit there for pictures and the nighttime glow, hitting the burners and giving some really pretty nighttime pictures,” Sneed said. “People will be able to walk up, talk to the pilots and ask questions and just be up close and touch the balloons more.”

Having the balloons at the festival as evening sets is something Sneed said everyone always enjoys.

“It’s a photographer’s dream because every balloon design is generally done by the owner,” he said. “You’ve got all the contrasting colors, you really have to see it to believe it. I think this is going to be a great event.”

Floyd hopes the addition of the balloons brings more visitors and helps with the awareness campaign surrounding the sculpture garden.

“I would have never thought about having balloons out there myself,” Floyd said. “I’m appreciative that Shelly (Wilkison) and Katie (Amsler) (from The Independent) came up with that idea. We’re just trying to build something up so that more people know the (sculpture garden) is up there.

“Here’s something that you have that’s the community’s and this is what happened 40 years ago. We point back to (Mel) Fowler and if him and his wife had not had the idea, none of this would have happened. In 1976, this was a big deal and we’re just trying to renew that.”

And in addition to the balloons, visitors will have the same opportunity as in years past to interact with sculptors on site all day.

“I think people will really enjoy it as we’re launching new stuff,” Floyd said. “Of course the thing I like the most is the five sculptors that come and do the sculpting for us. Those guys are so talented and so nice and they come and give this effort to some place where they don’t live.”

This year, the City of Liberty Hill is the title sponsor of the festival, helping to try and grow the event and expand awareness.

“We’re very appreciative of how the City has helped us, and it shows what people can do if they all work together,” Floyd said. “It should be very very good as an entertainment event, but it should be very good for Liberty Hill as well. It will help us as a Foundation to be able to point to what we are doing and hopefully get people to help us build some sidewalks, make the park ADA compliant and things like that.”

Floyd said there can never be too many volunteers or limits on how people can contribute and anyone interested in helping the Liberty Hill International Sculpture Park should contact him by e-mail at

“I want to stress that if someone wants to be involved we have something they can do,” he said.

Sneed said the fascination with the balloons is always exciting to see, admitting his began at a young age.

“When I was eight, my dad took a flight in a hot air balloon,” he said. “About a year later I took my first ride in a hot air balloon and I got addicted from the first time I got in one.”

He followed his dad all over the Southeast to balloon events as he grew up, but in 2000, he got his pilot’s license. The experience is difficult to explain, even for someone who has been piloting balloons for two decades.

“It’s hard to express unless you actually do it,” Sneed said. “It feels like you’re just dangling in the air. Most people are fascinated with flight in general, with airplanes and the power as you zoom off and fly wherever you want.”

The more casual, relaxed type of flight is very appealing.

“With a hot air balloon, you don’t have to have a destination, which I think is incredible,” Sneed said. “You can just get in and go, and go where the wind takes you. It is a much calmer and quieter type of flight. You’re flying along and just watching the earth pass underneath you. The neatest thing is when you take off. It really doesn’t feel like you are taking off. You really never know that you’ve taken off, it just feels like the earth is moving away from you.”

The combination of the fascination of flight and how simple the balloons are is something Sneed said always captures the imagination.

“People are just amazed that it works because it is so simple,” he said. “Hot air ballooning is a very simple type of flight. It is such a pure form of aviation. There is no instrument you have to follow.”

More details about the Sculpture Festival, including the schedule of events, ticket information and sponsorship opportunities will be announced soon.