Tuesday, July 19, 2011
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Art and balloon fest plans shaping up

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[July 19, 2011]  Thursday morning a group gathered in the Blue Room downstairs at the Logan County Safety Complex to discuss security measures that will need to be in place for the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival this year.

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 director.

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 event.

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 airport.

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.


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