Attendance down at Middletown balloon event due to rainy weather

Stormy weather dampened the annual Ohio Balloon Challenge hot-air balloon event for a second day as no balloons were able to fly in the competition and kept thousands of people away.

Kathy Stites, Ohio Balloon Challenge event manager, said attendance “was down big-time” because of the strong storms that came in on Friday and again on Saturday.

“We normally have 40,000 to 60,000 visit the event but I believe we had 4,000 to 5,000 attend this weekend,” Stites said.

She said a few of the hot-air balloons were inflated during the afternoon and about five balloons were inflated for an abbreviated balloon glow and the fireworks show was also held Saturday evening.

“We opened up the gates with no charge about 7:30 p.m. just to say ‘thank you’ and enable people to visit the vendors and the balloons before the fireworks show,” she said. “It’s all good, but we can’t control the weather.”

While some of the balloons were able to be inflated between the rain showers, none of the 25 balloonists were able to lift off during this weekend’s event, Stites said. She also said that the majority of the 300 volunteers who help put on the annual event showed up in the inclement weather.

“All of the balloonists wanted to go up, but safety comes first for the balloonists and the spectators,” she said.

Stites said there were 40 vendors at the event and did not know the extent of the financial losses they experienced due to lack of attendance as a result of the weather. She also praised the event sponsors who realize weather will always be a factor.

“We’re all disappointed and we hope people will come back next year. Weather is always going to be a factor and it’s a crap shoot whatever date is selected,” she said. “We’ll come back stronger next year. One bad year isn’t going to stop us.”

The Middletown event wasn’t the only hot-air event affected by the stormy weather this weekend. Stites said there were three events in Michigan that were affected by weather. She also said a balloonist from Albuquerque, N.M. told her of the eight to 10 events he participated in this year around the country, about half were rained out.

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