By Riley Manning
TUPELO – It’s not every day a hot-air balloon touches down in Robins Field, but when it does, it’s at the Festival on the Field.
The annual event is the combined effort of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church, and First Presbyterian Church. This year, their ranks were joined by St. Paul United Methodist Church, pastored by the Rev. Gloria McKinney.
“First Methodist extended the invitation and we were happy to get on board,” McKinney said. “This is a community in unity. Considering the tornado, this is the calm after the storm.”
Church volunteers manned a grill, churning out pork and chicken kebobs, hot dogs, and corn on the cob to serve the line of field revelers. Bounce castles gave the younger children plenty of entertainment, while the hot-air balloon drew the neighborhood’s residents from blocks around.
Tupelo resident Jason Pannell attended with his wife and their two children ages 4 and 5, and said it was the perfect occasion to get into the rhythm of autumn.
“Once the school year gets kicked off, the next thing is for the churches to start their Wednesday night activities,” he said. “They’ve got big-kid games, little-kid games, and the line for the balloon won’t stop until it runs out of gas. That’s what happened last year.”
City Council member Nettie Davis said it was encouraging to see the fellowship among Tupeloans. “It’s really great,” she said. “As a member at St. Paul’s and the City Council, I’ve always pushed for unity, and I see very much of that out here today.”
FUMC associate minister the Rev. Sapada Thomas noted the popularity of the event is a testimony to effectiveness when denominations work together.
“Tupelo is way ahead on being eccumenical,” he said. “It’s pretty rare that churches talk to each other at all, let alone across denominations.”