Arriving on May 6, the artists will set up on the front plaza of the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hendersonville. Led by artist Marcie McGrath, also known as the Balloon Fairy, they will begin a large-scale balloon sculpture of a pirate ship that will be fully completed on May 8. The public is invited to watch the build all-day Friday, May 7, where they can write a note on a balloon that will be part of the ship and donate to sponsor a fish. 

As the build wraps up the morning of Saturday May 8, a costumed sea-themed celebration will be held. Led by Kenny the Clown, the Sea Creature Swim will leave from the Aquarium & Shark Lab at noon and head over to the courthouse. The public is welcome to join the celebration and receive a pirate or sea creature mask from TEAM ECCO. Upon reaching the courthouse, the pirate ship balloon sculpture will be unveiled, complete with a balloon captain, crew, and hundreds of sea creature balloons.

In addition, the balloon festival will hold a great collection of family-friendly activities on May 8. These include a Tap Snap Photo Booth, wind tunnel prize machine, craft table, face painting, meet a mermaid, hula hooping with Michele Simpson, Overmoutain Vineyards table, and much more. Volunteers from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina and First Bank will be joining as well. Community supporters for the event include Econo Lodge, Mezzaluna, Chick-fil-a, Hulsey Media, Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique, First Citizens Bank, City of Hendersonville, and more. If you would like to be involved, please contact Brenda Ramer at the Aquarium & Shark Lab. 


TEAM ECCO was founded in 2001 as a grassroots ocean learning program to reach youth and adults in Western North Carolina. Their first classroom was established in 2009 in a simple 800 sq foot room with space for small classes. In 2011, they opened the first inland aquarium in NC.  The Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO is home to over 275 fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and salamanders. There are two dozen exhibits, including our new 2,000-gallon shark study tank. With this system, interns can monitor the development of shark eggs and look at behavioral studies on animal imprinting.