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
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
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,
The VIP social hour will begin immediately following the balloon
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
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