After the success of the hot air balloon festival Balloons Over Vermilion, the organizers are already looking forward to next year’s festival. The balloon festival had record attendance. This year’s balloon festival took place on Friday, July 14 and Saturday July 15, 2017. It was held at the Vermilion Regional Airport in Danville, Illinois.
This year, over 22,500 people attended the event. This was a 16% increase from the number who attended the festival in 2016.
Two of the organizers, Co-Chair Jim Anderson and Co-Chair Pat O’Shaughnessy commented on Balloons Over Vermilion.
Anderson does not feel like the festival has reached its peak. “We fully expect that number to grow in the years ahead,” Anderson said.
“In planning for this year’s event we anticipated and planned for a larger crowd joining us, especially after the response we received for our inaugural event last year. Our planning was well worth the effort,” Anderson said. “Responding to input from so many supporters last year, we made a number of changes to continue making this event both family-centered and user-friendly. The planning and preparation certainly paid off as traffic moved smoothly, the bus shuttle was again used heavily, vendor lines were shortened and pilot logistics were fine-tuned—all resulting in a wonderful experience for our guests.”
O’Shaughnessy said that the county of Vermilion loves hot air balloons. “What we experienced,” O’Shaughnessy said, “…once again confirmed Vermilion County’s love affair with the magic of hot-air ballooning.”
Balloons Over Vermilion featured mass balloon ascents, nightly balloon glows, tethered hot air balloon rides, vintage aircraft rides, helicopter rides, the Jesse White Tumbling team, an antique car show, a “balloon school,” a kid’s zone, and live music, in addition to food fun and entertainment “for all ages.”
“After last year’s response, our tether balloon pilot had to bring two balloons this year and gave almost 800 rides during the two days, our helicopter pilot tripled his expectations by flying over 350 guests, our food vendors stayed busy keeping up with everyone’s appetites, the Kids Zone was packed both days with more activities for the kids, and the stage entertainment was awesome,” said O’Shaughnessy. “It’s all about the ‘kid’ in each of us, and it’s just an inspiring experience to be a part of.”
Thirty-three hot air balloon pilots took part in the balloon festival. A whopping total of 800 tethered balloon rides were given. In addition, 350 people took rides on helicopters. The event had a total of 600 volunteers that helped with the event.
Joe Vincent, the Balloon Meister for the event, commented on the pilots at the balloon festival. “We had a great group of pilots to work with last year, and they all wanted to be a part of the 2017 event. They work extremely well with their sponsors and all the people in Vermilion County who look forward to their return each year,” Vincent said.
Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation has made a five-year commitment to sponsor Balloons Over Vermilion; two of the years have been completed. Anderson said, “Julius joined us at the airport both days, and was in the front row with all the kids for the Parade of Pilots, the launches and the balloon glows.”
Next year’s Balloons Over Vermilion is going to take place in July as well.