More than 40 balloons will fly into Findlay’s Emory Adams Park for Flag City BalloonFest, a free event running from Aug. 11-13.
BalloonFest was founded in 1999 by Findlay businessman Dan Clinger, who worked with a committee of family, friends, and volunteers to create a local celebration for the new millennium in 2000.
The festival has continued every year since, with this year’s event drawing balloons from locations like Upper Sandusky and Lima to places as far away as Florida, North Carolina and Texas.
Standing eight stories high (with some special-shaped balloons standing taller), the balloons take off and fly into the park at 7 a.m. each day, weather permitting. They also take off at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The special-shaped balloons are known as “fiesta balloons,” and they have become crowd favorites, said Bruce Baker, media chairperson of BalloonFest. These include “Oggy the Friendly Dragon” from Westfield, Indiana; Peg Leg Pete from Mahomet, Illinois; and Gordo, a monkey and BalloonFest regular, from Columbia, Missouri.
Most of the balloons are competing to win points for the U.S. and World Nationals.
Competitions include a bean bag drop from the flying balloons. A ring grab contest includes a Hula Hoop ring on a 20-foot pole, which the pilots must grab as they fly by. Accuracy and skill is required for the pilot to reach the ring.
The balloons will light up the park for illumination ceremonies at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, weather permitting. This involves heating the air inside the balloon with propane-fueled fire, which causes the balloon to glow brightly. During a daytime flight, this effect is usually not seen, but the BalloonFest website described the nighttime view as “stunning.”
Friday’s events will conclude with a fireworks display at 10 p.m.
Sunday’s activities include a free pancake breakfast for at least 200 people at 6:30 a.m., and a praise service at 7:30 a.m.
Other attractions during the weekend include a Saturday car and motorcycle show; food vendors; a beer garden; a beer-making demonstration by the Hancock County HomeBrewers Association; helicopter rides; a remote-controlled airplane show and display by the Findlay Flying Circuits; Hancock County sheriff K-9 demonstrations; a petting zoo; a kids fair; knocker ball; autograph sessions with Miss Ohio and the balloon pilots; a Saturday morning 5K race; a vintage base ball match with 19th century rules; and more.
Music will be provided by four local bands from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday in a battle of the bands, and Saturday’s music will run from 5:30 to 11 p.m., featuring Nashville-based Findlay native Joshua Melton and Sol Jam, a local act.
Balloon rides are offered to the general public during some of the morning and evening flights. “Tiny,” a balloon piloted by Brian Trapp of Lebanon, Ohio, can carry up to 10 riders, depending on their weight.
The rides cost $250 per person. If the ride is canceled due to high winds or poor weather, $225 will be refunded or the participants could make arrangements to fly Sunday morning or another time.
Participants must arrive at Emory Adams Park’s information tent half an hour before their scheduled flight to check in. Pre-registration and advance payment are required and can be done on flagcityballoonfest.com by clicking on the “Balloons” tab and clicking on “balloon rides,” as well as by emailing email@example.com
Tethered balloon rides are offered from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and cost $20, with no registration required. Laurie Givin of Lebanon, Ohio, will offer the rides in her balloon, “Lady Blye.”
In the event of inclement weather, including rain and dangerous winds, flights can be canceled but other events continue.
The BalloonFest is a drone-free zone. No drones are allowed to fly by the public during the entire event.
For a full schedule of events, visit flagcityballoonfest.com or call 567-208-0026 for more information.