Our annual art and balloon fest is not exempt from something going
amiss, and we had two events that we wish hadn't happened. But at
the same time we should be thankful the aftermath of each was not as
bad as it could have been.
The entire Friday was a perfect one for
the festival. Balloons went up in the morning and early evening.
Tethered balloon rides saw long lines waiting a turn, and the
balloon glow went off under clear skies and still winds.
That evening a young lady as a member of a balloon team fell and
broke her arm. Immediate response and treatment by emergency
responders right on the premises at the airport gave the woman the
care and transport she needed. Accidents do happen, and everyone is
thankful that nothing more serious happened to her when she fell off
the balloon trailer.
Saturday also started off with idyllic conditions. The balloons
launched and the day was warm, with a cool breeze helping everyone
stay comfortable both at the airport and downtown.
Cool breezes were great for the throng that attended all our
downtown events. But strong breezes are not good for hot air
balloons, and the Saturday evening balloon launch and tethered rides
at the airport had to be canceled.
For many of the thousands in attendance at the airport, they knew
that would be the case without needing to ask. They have become
experienced at understanding the balloons because they come to the
event every year to enjoy the weekend with family and friends.
There were some who didn't understand why there were no balloons
early in the evening, not realizing that hot air balloons without
steering wheels or brakes can only launch when wind speeds allow
safe takeoffs as well as landings.
There was still plenty to see and do at the airport. As the night
progressed, crowds poured into the airport, and they were not
disappointed as dusk fell.
Many say that Saturday night's balloon glow, with all the
balloons lighting the sky with their flames, was the best one the
festival has ever had, and so things were getting ready to end on a
By 9 p.m., many cars were headed out the gates, as their day was
now complete after seeing the balloons. Still there were several
thousand enjoying the amusement park, and lines were still at all
the vendors, as a last chance to sample great festival food was
setting with the last rays of the sun.
And then the lights went out.
The Brat Pack, a popular band with a loyal following, had just
started at the south end of the airport when things went semi-dark.
They were into their second song when a fuse in the airport
transformer blew, leaving the airport without power.
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Fortunately, the amusement park at the north end had a backup
generator and rides went on as if nothing had happened.
And generator-run stanchions of lights that were all around the
airport to assist motorists see better kept the airport in dusk-like
conditions, but not total darkness.
Festival coordinators and chamber staff were met with a dilemma:
a challenge that might have caused a lesser group of people to throw
in the towel and just tell everyone to go home. But the team that
runs our festival doesn't look for reasons to quit. They look for
solutions when something happens that no one can expect.
Ameren was immediately notified of the problem, and a truck and
team were dispatched to the airport. In the meantime, one of the
arrays of floodlights from the parking area was driven to the south
end of the airport, which was darkest, and the lights gave everyone
enough light to safely walk around as they patiently waited.
At the 45-minute mark, which probably felt like days to the
festival staff, a generator brought in by the Lincoln Rural Fire
Protection District backed up to the stage, and lights went on
around the band shell.
With the lights now on, a remarkable sight was seen. The crowd of
some 400 to 500 that had gathered to listen to the band was still
Roughly 15 minutes later the Ameren crew had repaired the damaged
fuse and the airport was back to full power.
To be fair, the power outage had signaled the end for some of the
vendors. Without power, oils had cooled down, some food was cold,
and the strong evening sales ended in a low point for them.
But for those still in attendance, the night was a great one. The
evening ended on a high note when it so easily could have been a
When the Brat Pack came back on stage, they began with a Bon Jovi
song, "Living on a Prayer." One of the lines in the song says, "Hang
on to what we've got."
What we have is a great festival run by dedicated chamber staff
and volunteers who do all they can to make the Lincoln Art & Balloon
Festival as good as it can be: under lights or in the dark.
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