Jason Brown’s faith has led him to do some interesting things since he retired from his NFL football career and he and his family have used their farm in Franklin County to do everything from growing and giving away produce to transforming an old dairy barn into a wedding venue.
And on Memorial Day weekend, visitors will have a chance to cast their eyes to the skies for the second annual Memorial Balloon Festival at First Fruits Farm.
The Vance County native said there could be as many as 35,000 to 40,000 people in attendance during the four-day event, which kicks off on Friday, May 27 and ends on May 30. He spoke with John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk about what’s in store at the farm, located at 2805 E. River Rd. in Louisburg.
The festival is a way to honor veterans and those who served in the military, and Brown said the event has special meaning for him. His brother, Lunsford, was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2003. And again this year, Brown said there will be a Gold Star reception for families like his who have lost a loved one. More than 100 Gold Star families attended last year’s event. “There is comfort and strength” for the families to be together, “to share love and their experience with one another,” Brown said.
Visit https://ncmemorialballoonfest.com/the-venue/ to purchase tickets and see a complete schedule of events for the weekend festival. There will be fireworks displays, balloon rides and tethered balloon rides and family fun for everyone.
“It’s an opportunity to bring the community together at a time when there’s so much divisiveness,” he said. The festival will provide a time for fellowship, as well as food and some good entertainment. Brown said some folks spend more than one day at the festival so they can take their time and soak in all the activities and performances.
Brown said God pointed him to farming and agriculture, something he said his time on the football field didn’t exactly prepare him for. “As long as there’s faith – that’s what’s most important.”
It’s a long way – literally and figuratively – from the football fields of the NFL to the sweet potato fields of Franklin County, but Brown said God continued to order his steps to make his dream a reality.
That reality has become a hybrid of sorts – growing produce that he gives away with the help of hundreds of volunteers each season. He said “some of the most awesome people give up a Saturday morning” to dig, collect and distribute the hundreds of thousands of pounds of sweet potatoes that provide a healthy food to those in need. “They truly are the salt of the earth,” he added.
Volunteers are vital during harvest time, and Brown said there’s room for additional volunteers to help at the balloon festival, too. Visit the webpage to learn how to register, but Brown said in exchange for four hours of service, volunteers will get free admission and parking to the festival. And a cool t-shirt.