Balloon festival returns to Urbana this weekend

Eleven hot air balloons landed at Grimes Field in Urbana after a morning flight on Saturday, July 7, 2012, during the sixth annual Balloon Fest which is coordinated by the Champaign County Visitors Bureau.
Staff photo by Barbara J. Perenic
Caption
Eleven hot air balloons landed at Grimes Field in Urbana after a morning flight on Saturday, July 7, 2012, during the sixth annual Balloon Fest which is coordinated by the Champaign County Visitors Bureau. Staff photo by Barbara J. Perenic

Credit: Barbara Perenic

Credit: Barbara Perenic

12 hot air balloons the focus, but event will also have food trucks, eating contests.

The Champaign County Balloon Fest, known as “A Hot Affair,” will return for a third year this weekend.

The festival is scheduled from 4 to 9 p.m. today and Saturday at the Grimes Field Airport at 1363 N. Main St. in Urbana.

Originally started in 2017, the festival will have 12 hot air balloons for the show, and they will be on display for a “glow” after dark.

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“The balloons will be coming in shortly after 4, with a launch at 6. They will launch and go out, maybe about a mile or so, and they will return for a glow after,” said Sandy Gonzalez, the publicity chair for the festival.

After returning from the launch at 6 p.m. the balloons will be anchored on the field and lit to “glow” after sundown.

“This year, the glow will begin between 8 and 8:30, when they return, inflate, and glow. At that time, once they’re inflated, they will drop the barriers, and folks are able then to get up and close and see how large and magnificent they are,” she said.

As the festival falls on the 20 year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, a memorial service will be included during the event on the second night.

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“Saturday night we will have a special memorial service and recognition of 9/11, beginning at 5:30. The fire department will aid in hoisting the flag, and the national anthem will be played. We’ll have a moment of silence before activities begin at 6 with the balloon launch,” said Gonzalez.

In previous years, a balloon festival would take place as a full-day, two-day event, but came to an end when the head organizer relocated to Cincinnati.

“The event fell by the wayside, and no one would step up. During a visitors bureau meeting, we were discussing other activities that would bring outside guests to the Urbana and Champaign County area, and it was said, ‘Maybe we could do the balloon fest, maybe we should bring that back.’ So we formed a committee and said, ‘Well, we’ll go for it,’ and that’s how it came about,” Gonzalez said.

The event runs with the nonprofit organization known as the Grimes Field Foundation, which aids in funding the balloon festival, and many other events hosted by the Grimes Field Airport.

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“We hope people come out and enjoy the sight of the ‘glow’ on the field,” she said.

A variety of local food trucks will be at the event, providing fun foods and meals. Food trucks appearing include Fresh Harvest Food Truck; Fresh Harvest Beverage Truck; K Family Concessions; Shred Creations; Ashley’s Cupcakes; Tony’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice and Cotton Candy; Laylas Sweet Treats; Snow Sisters Shaved Ice and Lemonade Shake-ups; and Specialty Popped Kettle Corn and Lemonade.

Other activities include a pizza eating contest at 7 p.m. today, along with a wings eating contest at 7 p.m. Saturday. The maximum number of participants for each contest is 20. The winner of the wings eating contest will win a $75 gift card to The Wing Bar, and the winner of the pizza eating contest will win monthly free pizza from Marco’s Pizza.

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Children’s games and activities will also be included, such as bouncy castles.

The cost per person for entry is $2, and for $1 per child between the ages of 6 to 12. Children under 6 can enter for free.

No pets, outside food and drink, or smoking is allowed.

For more information, visit https://www.balloonfestohio.com/.

The food eating contests are sponsored by The Wing Bar and Marco’s Pizza.