COLUMN: Hot-air balloon manufacturing: Part of Iredell since the '70s

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Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2013 8:45 am

The Carolina BalloonFest, which concludes today at the Statesville Regional Airport, is connected with a business that came in Iredell County 40 years ago: The Balloon Works, Inc., now known as FireFly Balloons, Inc., and located on Meacham Road in Statesville. It is reasonable to assume that without the hot-air balloon manufacturing company being located in Iredell, the Carolina BalloonFest would not be held here either.

Founded by Tracy Barnes -- the subject of last Sunday's column -- and Karl Stefan and Dodds Meddock, the firm was begun in 1972 and was originally located in a former women's prison near UNC Charlotte, but moved to northern Iredell in 1973, locating on land belonging to Raeford and Anna Rhyne -- dubbed the "Rhyne Aerodrome" -- and operated out of two long, narrow buildings that had previously been chicken houses. Eventually a third long building was needed to keep up with demand.

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