Ohio Challenge hot-air balloon event to have flyovers, giant screen so spectators may see more

Nineteenth annual festival, competition will be at Smith Park in Middletown.

Those who attend the 19th annual Ohio Challenge Friday and Saturday at Smith Park will have two more attractions to grab their attention.

While the hot air balloons, skydivers and fireworks are the main attractions, organizers have added a jumbo 17-foot by 10-foot video board to the festival that will give spectators a close-up view of the activities shown live on-site and on social media, said David Pearce, event coordinator.

Pearce said live interviews with performers, vendors and spectators will be broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and shown on the video board that is owned by Trace Fowler and Shaun Spurlock of Epic Image in Hamilton.

“We can use this to show people who can’t be everywhere what’s happening inside the park,” Pearce said of the video board that’s transported on a trailer. “This allows us to raise the bar and the profile of the event. We can send a positive message about our schools and business community. This is a chance to sell Middletown.”

Pearce called the Ohio Challenge, in its 19th year after 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19, Middletown’s “signature event.”

The production technology and cameras attached to the helmets of skydivers will give spectators a behind-the-scenes look at Team Fastrax, the Middletown-based professional skydiving team, from the time they prepare to board the planes until they land, Pearce said.

In addition to the video board, four to six planes will perform flyovers at 5 p.m. Saturday at Middletown Regional Airport. Pearce said their stunts will be “just short of aerobatic.”

The Butler County Warbirds will display two vintage planes and guests will be able to purchase ride tickets, he said. Tethered hot air balloon rides will be available for $20.

There will be carnival rides and craft vendors both days and a car show on Saturday.

Pearce said the Ohio Challenge will feature 20 balloons, four special shapes. Team Fastrax will perform both nights. Balloonists will perform balloon glows both nights, followed by fireworks at 10 p.m.

There won’t be a shortage of food and drinks, according to Pearce.

He said there will be 24 food vendors, a mixture of local and regional favorites. Some of those vendors include Brent’s Smokin’ Butts, Combs Barbecue, The Jug, Traveling Cheesecake, Domino’s and Chick-fil-A.

“One of the best varieties we ever had” is how Pearce described the food lineup.

Soft drinks, water and Miller Coors and Budweiser products will be available, he said.

At last year’s Ohio Challenge, the Friday scheduled was rained out, then 14,500 people, a record one-day crowd, attended on Saturday.


WHAT: Ohio Challenge

WHERE: Smith Park, Middletown

WHEN: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday

COST: Walk-ins $5, children under 12 are free. Parking at airport is $15 per vehicle and includes admission for all people in vehicle and free shuttles to Smith Park entrance.

MORE INFORMATION: ohiochallenge.com

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