Future of popular Middletown event topic of council meeting today

Middletown City Council will be discussing various issues facing the annual Ohio Challenge hot air balloon competition at 5 p.m. today in the Council Chambers at the Middletown City Building.

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Officials from the Ohio Challenge and council will be discussing recent changes at the Middletown Regional Airport concerning parking on the airport grounds and access to launch hot air balloons.

David Pearce, a member of the event’s organizing committee, told council during last week’s work-session concerning the future of the airport that he did not have clarity on the future of the event. Pearce said decisions on the airport’s future will have an impact on the future of the event.

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In addition to the parking issues, council will also discuss a request for $25,000 from the city's lodging taxes to help defray the loss resulting from the loss of Selection.com's decision to end its annual sponsorship following a dispute last summer with the city's new airport director. The balloon event organizers were notified that parking would not be permitted inside the airport grounds.

Pearce, an organizer and treasurer of the Ohio Challenge, said parking at the airport was critical for the event's success and that the event has been parking cars there for 10 years.

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The 2017 event had a direct economic impact of $2 million to $2.5 million and attracted an average of 50,000 to 55,000 people, with about 50 percent coming from Butler and Warren counties, according to organizers.

The 2018 event was the first time the event was considered a wash-out due to heavy rains, with a 90 percent drop in attendance from the 2017 event.

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