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2014
Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival

2015 Festivals schedule announced
Festival spread across weekends June through September
 

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[August 26, 2014]  Each year it seems that the events and participants of those events at the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival increase in size and number. In the first 20 to 25 years of the festival that growth was a good thing. But now in the last few years, it has become a detriment to local businesses according to Andi Hake of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce.

Therefore, the decision has been made to spread the biggest draws of the festival across four weekends, one per month in June, July, August and September next year.

Saturday evening Hake and city of Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder announced what the festival will look like in 2015.

On the weekend of June 5th through 7th, the Up in Smoke Barbecue will take place. The event will be grouped with the Oasis Craft and Flea Market and the Railsplitter Antique Auto Club car show. Added to the event will be a downtown beer tent and live jazz music.

The Fine Art Fair and the Art of Wine & Brew will take place on the weekend of July 18 and 19. It will be grouped with the 7th Annual Family Fun Day hosted by the Open Arms Christian Fellowship Church. New to the event that weekend will be live Jazz music in the downtown area.



The Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival will become the Lincoln Balloon Festival. It will be held the same weekend as it has been in the past, August 28th and 29th. All the activities of the balloon festival will take place at the Logan County Airport. The festival will include the giant kites of the Wisconsin Kiters, who have been coming for the past few years. There are also plans to expand activities at the airport between flights. Among those plans, more family games and activities, more live music, and of course food.

In September of 2015, the National Railsplitting Festival will be held on the 18th through the 20th, primarily at the Logan County Fairgrounds. The Postville Courthouse 1800ís Craft Fair will be added to that weekend event, with hopes of adding other events at Postville Park as well.

Hake and Snyder shared these plans with the public and press from the wine tent in downtown Lincoln on Saturday afternoon. Hake spoke briefly about why this decision has been made. Recalling conversations with downtown merchants, and results of surveys, she said the festival in its current state has become too big, and instead of helping increase local revenues, it is actually hurting the downtown businesses.

She cited the pitfalls of having so many activities going on in one weekend. Among them she said it was difficult for retailers and other area businesses to do target market advertising when there were too many targets. She noted that businesses need to reach specific customers through target marketing, but when you have the barbecue, art, balloons, wine and mirco breweries, flea markets, car shows, and historic events all going on at once, choosing the target becomes a big challenge.

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In addition, Hake said, visitors to the community donít always leave happy, because they felt divided in what they could see and do. Those who wanted to go to the ballooning events were forced to miss some of the barbecue events and vice versa. She said many of the chamber surveys came back with comments that people had tried too hard to see everything offered, and had still not been able.

She finally noted, that as the festival grows in offerings each year, the need for volunteers grows. She told the crowd that this year, attendance numbers had been down, probably due to the weather. But, she said, that may have been a blessing. Hake went on to say this year; they came up about 200 volunteers short of having all they needed.

She also noted that the growth of the festival has put a strain on local safety professionals. She said the Lincoln Police Department, EMA, and other safety organizations were stretched to the limit and beyond on being able to provide security around the various event locations. She also noted this year, some very important night time security details had to be dropped because the local law officials didnít have the manpower to have people out at all the various locations.

Spreading the festival components across four weekends in four separate months will help solve many, if not all of these issues, Hake said.

Furthermore, it is hoped that each component will take off and grow again, bringing more and more visitors to Lincoln and Logan County.

The goal of the chamber is to help grow area businesses and encourage new business to come into Logan County. Hake said her awakening came last year when she was told that so many people were in Lincoln on the festival weekend that the stores, while crowded with visitors, were not selling anything. She said it was shocking to hear, but she made a point of trying to shop last year during the festival and soon realized just how uncomfortable and difficult it was to do so. She is hopeful that making these changes in 2015 will provide for more tourist activity in Logan County, and will bring more business to local retailers.

[By NILA SMITH]

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