Balloon festival benefits charity

Crowds at the Monroe County Fairgrounds enjoyed a variety of music and homemade foods while balloons filled the sky this weekend during the inaugural Kiwanis Club of South Central Indiana Balloon Festival.

Raising several thousands of dollars through ticket sales, hot air balloon rides and food sales, the proceeds Kiwanis made will be donated to Riley Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington and future Kiwanis service projects, said Vanessa McClary, charter president of the club.

McClary said she teamed with fellow Kiwanis member and Airbus Balloon Rides owner Andy Richardson, and the two organized the event to feature a variety of hot air balloons for participants to spectate and ride. These included hot air balloons that resembled a scarecrow, Rocket Man and a dragon.

“I started this Kiwanis Club about seven years ago,” McClary said. “I’ve just always dreamed of putting on a hot air balloon festival because I love balloons, and I think the community in general loves seeing them, too.”

McClary said planning the festival took a full year, as she worked to organize the fundraiser to be appealing to the community and in line with SCI Kiwanis Club’s other service projects.

The event’s main attraction was the hot air balloon races conducted all three days throughout the weekend.

Richardson said the races were conducted at the most suitable times — in the early morning and late evenings.

“The winds are more stable and easy to predict during these times of the day,” Richardson said. “It makes for a smoother hot air balloon ride.”

In addition, a chili cook-off contest was organized, which McClary said gave contestants the opportunity to show off their culinary skills and donate to the festival’s fundraising cause by paying an entrance fee.

One of the event’s most anticipated features was the Kiwanis Idol singing competition, which required auditions prior to the contest.

People of all ages were invited to participate in the American Idol-based contest, with first place receiving allotted time at local recording studio Stables Studio.

More musical festivities were featured in the evenings on the main stage, where attendees enjoyed the live pop and rock musical performances of national touring artist Marc Broussard and local Bloomington artist Jenn Cristy.

Keeping up with their other yearly events, the club also organized its seventh annual Health & Safety Family FUN! Fair. The fair provided health screenings and education for families in attendance.

After a successful first year, McClary said there are plans to bring the festival back again next year and make the Hot Air Balloon Festival an annual SCI Kiwanis Club event.

“We’re working on next year’s festival date right now, and we’ll know within a week when it will be,” she said.

via idsnews


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