A Russian folk group performed on stage Saturday evening as the roar of hot air filled a giant, brightly hued balloon and sent it rising above the trees at Hampton Park.
The SkyScapes of America hot air balloon quickly drew a line at the 2008 Piccolo Spoleto Festival finale. Tawes Wenz, 2, was one of the first to climb in the wicker basket with his dad, Dan.
The balloon was tethered and Dan Wenz estimated it rose 30 feet, or, in the words of a 2-year-old, "up, up, up."
The Wenz family lives close enough to Hampton Park to walk to the festivities, but cars surrounded the park by 7 p.m. Charleston police estimated the crowd at 2,000 at that time.
Ellen Moryl, director of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, expected the number to double by the time the 30th festival season finale closed at 11 p.m.
Piccolo Spoleto began May 23, and although the finale celebrates the end of Piccolo, there are a few more events today.
Children shook tambourines to the shouts of "Opa!" from the members of folk group Moscow Nights. A Latin groupbrought adults to their feet.
Engaged couple Darlene Espada of Sumter and Gary Garibaldi of Columbia danced the salsa on the grass among people stretched out on blankets or sitting in folding chairs.
"She's teaching me," a modest Garibaldi said.
"We happened to be here. We were told there was this international festival here. It's good," Espada said.
Couples who ventured to the area in front of the stage showed off their shag and merengue moves.
In keeping with the international flavor, food stands offered standard carnival fare such as elephant ears and turkey legs and Greek and Jamaican dishes.
The festival was scheduled to close with a fireworks display.