Findlay skies to fill up with hot air balloonsWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The skies in Findlay will come alive with more than 30 hot air balloons from Aug. 14 through 16 for the city’s 10th annual Flag City Balloon Fest.
The festival involves experienced balloon pilots from all over the country, who will compete against each other in a four- or five-mile radius to drop bean bags from thousands of feet in the air onto a marked spot on the ground.
Guests enter for free and watch the balloon competition in the sky while browsing food and arts vendors, viewing classic and sports car shows, military displays and climbing rock walls. Voices for Children, a legal advocacy group for children’s rights, will also set up inflated obstacle courses, kite flying activities, face painting and pony rides.
“My son is a pilot and I would go to these other events, and in 1999, there was so much hype about 2000 coming that I said we ought to have something like this in Findlay to celebrate the new millennium,” said Dan Clinger, who founded the festival in 2000.
Since then, he has found multiple sponsors, such as First Federal Bank and RCM Architects, to cover a $55,000 annual budget.
Though there is no cost for admission and parking, guests should bring cash for entering raffles, buying food or art and keeping the kids entertained, Clinger said. Most of the children’s activities will cost a small amount, but all the proceeds will benefit Voices for Children. Other raffles will benefit Cancer Patient Services or the United Way of Hancock County, which accumulated around $1,000 last year, he said.
Guests can also pay $20 for a tethered hot air balloon ride or around $40 for helicopter rides, Clinger said.
The festival will begin at 5 p.m. Aug. 14, and the balloons will take off at around 6 p.m. The next day, pilots will start about 7 a.m., and then prepare for another flight about 6 p.m. Aug. 16 will feature a morning flight at the same time.
Each pilot will compete for points that will earn them national credit and raise their rankings so they might be able to participate in the national Balloon Federation of America competitions in Battle Creek, Michigan in late August, Clinger said.
To navigate wind speeds and accurately land their bean bags on the marked spots, pilots have to raise and lower their balloons vertically to comply with the varying wind depending on altitude. Pilots can reach altitudes as high as 12,000 feet without requiring oxygen masks, Clinger said.
Costing as much as $40,000 to get started as a hot air balloon pilot, to purchase the basket and equipment, Clinger said this is an expensive hobby. That does not include the trailer balloon owners need to transport their massive equipment and the fabric for the balloon, which usually wears out after 400 to 500 hours of flying.
The festival will be located at Emory Adams Park, on the corner of 6th and Blanchard streets.
On the Web: visit www.flagcityballoonfest.com and click on links for more.