Thursday, September 19, 2013
Celina Balloon Festival attracts biggest crowd yet despite uncooperative weather
The festival attracted about 30,000 people.
CELINA One might think it would take flying pigs to get 30,000 people into a small area in Celina, but it actually happened last weekend when giant hot air balloon "Pigasus" lifted off.
The 2013 Celina Balloon Festival had the largest turnout in history, according to Celina Chamber of Commerce President David Whiteman, executive director of the festival.
"It was a great weekend for us," he said. "Of course we always wish we could fly more balloons, but the weather really has to cooperate with us. The whole idea behind Celina Balloon Festival is that if the balloons can't go, you don't have to get in your car and leave. There's tons of things to do, and people are responding to that."
Chamber officials calculated attendance two ways: one based on parking and one based on income.
"Both ways amazingly came up to within 100 people of each other," Whiteman said. "We're thrilled with that because it shows accuracy in both methods."
A total of 27,570 people attended the event, and that isn't even counting the people in the baseball tourney, car show, vendors and VIP parking, which pushed the number to over 30,000. That's 3,000-plus more visitors than the 2011 event received.
"One person who makes this festival happen is Rex Glendenning, who owns the property across from the park," Whiteman said. "If it weren't for him allowing us to use his land, we could not have the festival. He's great to us."
Corbett Howard, executive director of the Celina Economic Development Committee, served funnel cakes with the Rotary Club.
"I'm happy from a Rotary perspective that we had the opportunity to sell funnel cakes to provide funds to help with needy project[s] in the community," he said. "I wish more balloons could fly, but we don't control the weather. I hope the venue continues to be [a] success and I hope that people found it exciting."
Howard wasn't the only local who helped out at the festival.
"The way we keep it community-oriented is by keeping the community involved," Whiteman said. "It's a really simple equation: We don't hire anything outside that we can do inside. We raised money for groups by allowing them to do things that we could have hired someone else to do. That's how we keep it small town."
For example, the Cinco de Mayo group needed to raise money, so they handled all of the parking rather than hiring an outside company. People who brought toys for the Toys for Tots program and canned goods got in for free. Grace for Jace sold ice for all of the vendors and made a profit. Members of the Celina Masonic Lodge were paid to handle and clean up trash.
"Today the park doesn't even look like the festival happened," Whiteman said. "Everything is back to beautiful. The parks department treats it like their child, and it shows. A lot of people commented on what a beautiful park it was."
This year was the first for the city to invite interested dog-rescue groups, and 40 dogs found their forever homes.
"It is really unbelievable how many people it helps," Whiteman said, "and I think that was the most successful part of this year's event, is how many entities benefited."
He added that EMTs, police and fire were on top of everything.
"They had never been so concerned," Whiteman said "They had on a radio channel so anything we were talking about, they were listening to and couldn't have been more responsive."
Residents expressed some disappointment over the balloon presentations, but organizers noted that balloons would stay on the ground unless weather conditions were right.
One Celina resident who attended the festival on Saturday was disappointed at the overwhelming size of the event. The woman, who didn't want to release her name, said it was too crowded and had lost its small-town appeal.
Another resident who attended the balloon-glow presentation on Saturday night said her family was disappointed because the balloons didn't stay up. However, officials with the Celina Balloon Festival admitted that "Mother Nature made it difficult for the balloons to stay up."
"Pigasus was the star of the show and stayed up as long as she could safely stay up," the Facebook page stated.
Craig Meier with Ring A Ding Bling, a vendor that worked the event, said he was educated at this event about how tricky hot air ballooning can become with uncertain wind conditions.
"Needless to say, no more than a couple of balloons ever left the ground," Meier said. "Some people were not pleased, but when I asked the staff they said it was published [that] balloons would launch weather permitting. To satisfy most, a few balloonists inflated theirs and entertained with gas flames known as the 'glow.' They never left the ground, but it was impressive against a falling final sunset. It may have been a disappointment in the hot air balloon department, but the city of Celina covered their bases with enough activities and peripheral events to satisfy the masses."
Festival-goers stayed busy with zip lines, giant inflatable balloons with obstacle courses and slides, a carnival with a carousel, a petting zoo, a classic car show, helicopter rides, coconut climb and rock, bumper boats, animals for adoption, hamster balls, a baseball tournament, a kite expo and food, vendors, arts and crafts and more.
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