Andi Hake, the executive director for the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of
Commerce, led the meeting, along with Jennifer Lovett, art and
balloon fest coordinator, and Kelsey Ney; membership services
Hake has been with the chamber since 2008 and is quite familiar
with what it takes to get the balloon festival "off the ground," so
to speak. But for Ney and Lovett this is a new experience.
Hake spoke briefly about the absence of longtime event
coordinator Heidi Browne and said that due to Browne's absence, she
would be relying more than ever on her committee, volunteers and the
safety team to assist her and her staff in pulling off a successful
The festival committee strives to add new components to the
festival each year. Last year, for the first time, they coordinated
a Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival parade that wound through the city
streets in Lincoln and made its way out to the airport on the first
evening of the event.
This year, the pilots parade is back on the agenda but with some
slight route changes.
The festival, which has become one of the largest and most
popular weekend events in this part of the state, is again growing
in size. Downtown events will include a Kansas City Barbeque
Society-sanctioned cook-off, a new event this year.
The group discussed the additional street closings in the
downtown area, which for Friday and Saturday will include the east
side of the courthouse square between the post office and the
intersection of Pulaski and McLean, and one block east of the square
on Pulaski to the corner of Pulaski and North Hamilton.
The additional space will be used by the cook-off contestants,
who generally travel with campers and stay in the barbecue area the
entire time they are there.
Hake said many of the contestants will start their smokers and
grills on Friday, cooking through the night and into Saturday before
the judging takes place.
In addition to the contestants, there will be new food vendors in
the same area. Hake explained that by Kansas City rules, the
contestants do not serve their food to the general public. Saying
that it seemed unfair to have grilling and barbecuing smells in the
air without allowing anyone to eat, Hake said they made the decision
to add the vendors.
With these additional street closures, the route for the parade,
which travels from Wyatt Avenue to the airport on Friday afternoon,
will have to be altered to avoid the downtown square.
Hake said that at last year's parade, many children were
disappointed that no candy was thrown out along the route. This
year, parade participants will be allowed to toss out treats as they
travel to the airport.
Tracy Jackson, city superintendent of streets and alleys, added
that the city will run the street sweeper along the route afterward
to pick up trash and unclaimed candy.
Since coming to the chamber in 2008, Hake has recognized that the
traffic in and out of balloon fest activities is a serious issue,
especially at the airport. She has worked since that time to come up
with a safe, reasonable means of shuttling attendees to and from the
downtown area as well as the airport.
She noted at Thursday's meeting that last year, she came very
close to accomplishing her goal. She said she had everything
organized but the traffic pattern for the buses.
At the meeting Thursday, the group discussed at length how to get
buses in and out at the airport efficiently, safely and without
hindering the other traffic.
One option they are looking at is using 1400th Avenue off
Illinois Route 10, driving the buses to the northeast corner of the
airport property to what they call the "Corn Row Road," where riders
would depart from the bus and take a trolley to the main activities.
Hake said there was also a plan in place to use the smaller bus
from Christian Village to transport people with disabilities
directly from the central parking area to the heart of the airport
via the regular airport entrance.
The trolleys consist of a wagon with back-to-back benches in the
center, where riders will sit facing out. Hake said that Lincoln
Chrysler Dodge & Jeep and Graue Inc. are willing to provide trucks
to pull the trolleys, but it has come into question whether or not
the trucks will be able to pull the trolleys, when fully loaded with
passengers, along the dirt and grass route they will have to take.
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The shuttle buses will run in 15-minute cycles, picking up riders
in the parking lot of the old Walmart store on Woodlawn Road. The
route would include a sweep into the downtown area, where riders
could get off and on, and then move on to the airport.
During the Thursday meeting other suggestions were made on how to
include the shuttle traffic. At this time, no plan is set, but by
the time the festival rolls around it will be. Hake made this pretty
clear when she said, "This year we're going to have a shuttle, even
if I have to drive it myself."
One of the other issues discussed by the group was the flow of
traffic. Sheriff Steve Nichols, whose officers and auxiliary
officers spend much of their time helping direct traffic, said that
last year the inflow to the airport was much improved over previous
years, but getting people out after the glow was still a big issue.
He noted that exiting traffic stayed consistent until nearly
midnight. It also appeared that many who were attempting to leave
the airport were confused about how to do so.
The group talked about better signage marking the exit flow, and
it was questioned whether or not more people were needed to help
direct the exit traffic on the airport grounds.
Hake said one of the big issues she's facing is having enough
volunteers to assist with that.
She noted that the chamber does pay four off-duty officers to
assist throughout the weekend, but her budget is going to be
stretched this year with the addition of the Up in Smoke barbecue
competition, and she can't afford to do more.
She'll be relying on volunteers more than ever before, and at the
moment at least, those volunteer numbers are not there.
In addition to discussing transportation, the group talked about
maintaining emergency services throughout the weekend and having
help available to anyone who might need it.
For those attending the weekend of events, if and when they
should encounter an emergency situation, there are options as to how
to notify emergency personnel.
Anyone who uses their cellphone to dial 911 will be calling the
local 911 dispatch office in Lincoln and can report their
emergencies in that manner.
If phones are not available, there are locations at each event
site where an emergency can be reported in person. At the airport,
reports can be made at the event headquarters information tent or at
the EMA headquarters. Both will be located on the midway at the
At the Art Fair in Latham Park, people needing to report an
emergency can go to the fair's headquarters tent, located near the
center of the park, on the southwest sidewalk.
At the 1800's Craft Fair on the grounds of the Postville
Courthouse, reports can be made at the headquarters tent there, also
located near the center of the grounds.
For people attending the Oasis Craft Fair and Flea Market in
Scully Park, emergencies can be reported at the Oasis headquarters
tent, located on the north side of the park.
In addition, anyone in the vicinity of City Hall can go directly
to the Lincoln Fire Department station. The station is located on
the east end of the building. There is a back door on the north side
and a buzzer that will bring a firefighter to the door.
Currently the Logan County sheriff's officers and auxiliary
officers, Lincoln Police Department, Illinois State Police, Logan
County Paramedics Association, Lincoln Rural Fire, Lincoln Fire
Department, Logan County Emergency Management, and the EMA horse
patrol are all on board to have people in place in the downtown area
as well as at the airport to help maintain security, be there for
emergencies and offer support to those who are lost.
[By NILA SMITH]