You may have seen some hot air balloons in the sky this morning, and your eyes did not deceive.
Food City is officially celebrating the grand opening of their Chattanooga-region stores today with a hot air balloon at each location.
Officials announced in July that the company had acquired 29 Bi-Lo stores—including 21 pharmacies—in the Chattanooga region.
Dubbed #Balloonanooga, the hot air balloons were scheduled to launch from each Food City location at 8 a.m. this morning. However, several of the locations—including a store in East Ridge—opted for only tethered rides because of a lack of wind and the presence of fog in the area. Other locations successfully launched balloons into the sky.
"Basically, we had a soft grand opening, and now that all the stores in the area have been converted, we wanted to do a massive Chattanooga welcome," said Calvin Johnson, store manager for Food City's East Ridge store.
Johnson, a former Bi-Lo employee, said he was amazed at how quickly the stores transitioned in just a few months.
"You can tell it's been a well-thought-out plan," he said. "Right now, we're just trying to promote that we're here. It's hard to get people to accept change, but even with the name, a lot didn't change. The people are the same. We kept all our employees ... the same friendly faces."
Marsha Treacy was the hot air balloon specialist at the East Ridge location this morning. Her company, Aerosports Inc., is based out of Statesville, North Carolina.
Although the balloon was unable to launch, the presence alone drew dozens of onlookers.
Treacy and a crew of Food City employee volunteers worked from about 7:30 a.m. to be launch-ready by 8. Photos of the process can be seen below.