Saturday, August 23, 2008
sponsored by Jake's Furnishings

Lincoln balloon fest -- Friday: Day 1

High winds keep balloons on the ground

Solid planning makes navigating the airport a breeze

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[August 23, 2008]  For the entire week, the likely chance of rain for the 2008 Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival weekend was in the forecast.

Fortunately the cold front moving down from Canada pushed the rain south of us. Unfortunately the winds accompanying that front kept the initial balloon launch from taking place on Friday evening.

As a crowd of 200 gathered around the balloon pilots' briefing, they heard the words that they already knew. The winds were too strong for a flight. It was hoped, however, that there would still be the possibility of a balloon glow at dusk.

The early crowd could be considered light for a Friday evening, although not what one would call a poor attendance. Numbers were down early, as the Friday night launch is primarily witnessed by Logan County residents, with most travelers to our city still on the way. Area residents have become balloon experts themselves, knowing without coming that the winds were too strong.

As the evening progressed, the crowd grew. From Airport Road all the way to the Heritage In Flight Museum, there were things to ride on, foods to eat, vendor tents to shop in, as well as an atmosphere of a community celebrating its uniqueness and storied togetherness.

Throughout the night, friends met friends, stopped and chatted on the midway, and moved on to greet still more friends and neighbors. There were no balloons in the skies, but there were thousands of smiles on the ground. It was an uplifting experience to see.

The organization at the airport to handle a crowd was remarkable to witness. From double-gated entry lines with plenty of help to check passes or collect money, to scores of volunteers showing a motorist which way to go, not a moment was lost in confusion. The entire event showed exceptional planning for every detail. Mini taxi carts stood waiting if passengers found the trek to the main area too far to walk.

The festival was laid out in a straight line, with the amusement park -- a favorite of our community for people with little legs -- closest to the parking. Food vendors all in a row came next and then the merchandise vendors all in a row after that. On the other side of the midway, organizations with special product promotions or messages were all together.

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The balloons and balloonists themselves are family-friendly. Up until the point of preparing to launch, families are encouraged to get up close and meet the balloonists and watch as the great air-defying machines are unfurled. Not until after the balloons begin to be filled with air are people asked to stay behind a designated area, but still close enough to truly appreciate the majesty and size of these flying machines.

As the huge Dodge Ram balloon filled with gas to offer at least one balloon glow for the evening, a youngster, perhaps 3 years old, toppled over after raising his head back trying to see the top of the great balloon. That is what one can objectively call close and super large.


As the evening darkened, an unusual sunset appeared in the west. It was so unusual that many of the hundreds of cameras at the festival trained their lenses on that sight. It was almost as if nature was trying hard to do us one better. It will be left to those attending that evening if she did or not.

As the dark settled in, the cars continuously came. No threat of rain and so many other things to see and eat and play on brought strong numbers after nightfall. Still, the line of cars waiting to enter the airport was small and short-lived. The 100-plus volunteers and dozens of coordinators on duty were making everything just right on an imperfectly perfect evening.



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