2017 Lincoln Balloon Festival
August 25th thru 27th

Friday and Saturday at the Logan County Airport

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[August 16, 2017]  The staff at the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce Chamber staff is super excited about the upcoming Lincoln Balloon Festival. Lately, it has been all hands on deck in the office to wrap up the fine details of the 2017 Lincoln Balloon Festival that takes place in a week and a few days from now.

On the whole, Chamber President Cathy Wilhite, Events Coordinator Kari Adams, and Administrative Assistant Tina Rusk are excited about the upcoming event. At the same time they are, and will remain so until the 11th hour, more than a little nervous about the weather.

Weather can make or break the annual event as heavy rain or high winds can keep balloons on the ground and also keep some out-of-town visitors from attending. Weather can also have an impact on downtown events where art, craft and other vendors will once again be filling both Latham and Scully parks this year.

However, if all goes well, the 2017 Lincoln Balloon Festival promises to be a really good one with the return of some old favorites and many new features offered.

Special shape balloons

For many annual attendees, the biggest, most impressive part of the balloon festival is the special shape balloon featured each year. This year, Wilhite said she was excited to share that there would be not one… not two…, but three special balloons attending the August 25th and 26th launches and glows.

The first two balloons are a set known as Tom and Terry. The balloon shapes will be Tom the cat and Terry the mouse. The two will take to the air over Lincoln and Logan County and impress the crowd with their cat and mouse chase. What cannot be predicted is who will chase who, as the direction of the wind will decide which way the balloons go. Wilhite and Adams explained that the cat and mouse duo are coming from Florida with the primary pilot/owner, John Calvin, being new to the Lincoln festival.

In addition to flight, guests who make their way to the balloon pair before inflation will be treated to cat and mouse characters playing about and visiting with the audience.

The third special shape balloon is also new to the Lincoln festival, pilot Richard Lawhorn of Louisville, Kentucky, flying Humpty Dumpty. The large and colorful balloon features a yellow bowtie, waving arms, and feet dangling over the edge of the famous brick wall.

Wilhite also confirmed that this year there will be a total of 30 balloons take to the skies on Friday and Saturday evening for the launches. As is custom, not all the balloons will glow at one time because of the space needed for the glow. To see all the balloons glow, visitors should plan to attend both the Friday night and the Saturday night events.

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The return of the Friday night opening ceremony

Wilhite said that there used to be an opening ceremony at the first evening of the festival. This year that ceremony will return. The opening flight celebration will occur after the evening lift-off and before the glow at dusk.

Included in the event will be a VIP cocktail hour, then a public ceremony with some special guests invited to attend. Wilhite said that invitations have been issued to Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Senator Bill Brady, and Illinois Representative Tim Butler. She is hopeful that all three will be able to attend.

Those who purchase the VIP wristbands will gain entry into the cocktail hour on Friday night and also the VIP dinner to be held on Saturday night.

Airport emcees for events

This year, there will be two emcees for the evening events at the Logan County Airport.

On Friday evening hometown grown and favorite Tom McLaughlin of the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College will lead the night.

On Saturday evening the well-known voice of LCHS Railer Basketball announcer Bob Verderber will excite the crowd.

Airport activities and events include two nights of live entertainment

Friday evening events at the Logan County Airport begin at 4 p.m. with the opening of the Kids Zone, food concessions, and the Beer Garden. From 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. there will be Rock Wall Climbing, Tethered balloon rides, and a petting zoo.

The balloon launch is set for 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.

The VIP social hour will begin immediately following the balloon launch.

The opening ceremony will then be followed by the glow at dusk.

On both nights this year there will be one band on the stage for the entire evening. Hat Trick will take the stage at 6 p.m. and break during the glow. Immediately after the glow, the band with local connections will return to the stage and play until the 11 p.m., closing out the day.

The process will repeat itself on Saturday night as Heroso takes the stage early, break during the glow, and return to the stage to close out the night at 11 p.m.

No shuttle service this year

Wilhite said that this year there will be no bus shuttle service to the airport.

In the past there has been visitor pick-up at the Big R/Burger King parking lot. Wilhite said that the chamber had observed the usage of the shuttle last year, and not that many people took advantage of the offering. Therefore, they decided to discontinue the shuttle service.

[Nila Smith]

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