This year, Champaign County, for the first time ever, hosted a hot air balloon festival that was supposed to feature balloon launches, tethered balloon rides, balloon glows, carnival rides and food vendors.
What the festival actually had was a few more or less entertaining carnival rides, sky-high prices, and a dire lack of food options. With no balloons of any kind to be found.
On top of that, parking for the festival was uncoordinated and inconsistent. Event organizers have announced that if needed, there will be additional parking in parking lots B1 and B on the Parkland campus.
However, they also announced that the Parkland Way entrance would be closed as the festival would be using it. This made overflow parking inaccessible from certain entrances.
People who entered through the Bradley or Duncan entrances saw these barricades and started parking in the overflow parking lot. This allowed some to go straight to the festival avoiding the $10 entrance fee.
Meanwhile, people who came in the planned, but unspecified way, had to pay $10 per person to even enter the festival.
When I went to the festival around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, there were four food vendors, a taco truck, a truck grilling various foods, a Jersey Mikes Sub tent, and an ice cream truck. There were also carnival food stations in the carnival area.
Other people complained that on Saturday night there was only one food vendor available.
Mike Merrick commented on a post on the ‘Spotted in Chambana’ Facebook page and said, “I waited in line for an hour and a half. Even the guy who cooks said it would be nice if there were more food vendors.
While the original plan for the festival was to have these events and rides around hot air balloons, these events only happened for a very small part of the festival. Other than that, the schedule for these events was incredibly hard to find. Even on the festival site, you had to dig to find information about the events.
Due to this lack of information and bad publicity, many people who came to the festival during the day on Saturday were disappointed to find that not only were there no hot air balloon rides available, but that the balloons were nowhere to be found.
I’m not the only person unhappy with the festival. Many people who attended the festival had a lot to say about exactly what was so frustrating. Some were about parking and the lack of information on the website, but many comments commented on how the people organizing the event kept teasing the crowd with fake countdowns when they knew the weather conditions weren’t working. were not conducive to launching balloons.
Although I and many festival attendees understand that the weather is an important deciding factor in determining whether or not balloons can be safely launched, that does not change the fact that much of the information about the festival were difficult to find and the event organizers were aware of the weather forecast days leading up to the event. They could have posted updated information ahead of time if it didn’t seem like the weather was right.
The fair’s only redeeming qualities were that it offered small businesses the chance to do a bit of publicity, that proceeds from the festival went to children’s charities (although they could have had more money if their parking lot had been clearer), and carnival .
Featuring a Ferris wheel, flying seesaw machine, bouncy house, jammer and a few other carnival rides, these rides, although a bit overpriced (more than usual), were a fun addition to the festival and were a hit. entertained attendees.
As this was only the first annual hot air balloon festival for Champaign County, one can only hope that the reviews from this article and from festival attendees will help better prepare organizers for next year.