By Becky Maxedon
The changes and cancellations that the novel coronavirus brought in 2020 have unfortunately followed into the new year. But organizers of the annual Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair have decided to make their hot air be the creative driver of a few events to continue the momentum and ensure local nonprofits benefit from their efforts.
Lake Havasu City balloonist Gary Moore recently took delivery of a new balloon. Moore’s earlier balloon is familiar to locals because of its Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” art.
“We just took delivery of a new balloon from the Czech Republic. It’s a 120,000-cubic foot balloon that will allow us to fly four passengers with the pilot,” Moore said.
Moore refers to the earlier balloon “Time Peace” that featured the Pink Floyd artwork with a couple of peace signs as his “Hippy Balloon.” The new balloon is an extension of that.
“It’s called ‘Dark Side 2020’ which we thought was the perfect reflection of the year we just had,” Moore said.
Moore said he could understand how people were disappointed when the cancellation of the festival was announced earlier in 2020.
“I’d just like to say we’re really sorrowful and it’s a sad thing that we’re not going to be able to have the balloon fest this year,” he said.
“A lot of people didn’t understand when we cancelled so far in advance. But it’s a bigger picture than people realize – from fences to porta potties to stages to tents – things you have to do ahead of time to rent and sponsorships that weren’t going to be there. Because of the COVID situation, a lot of businesses just don’t have the extra money,” he said.
Moore said there are still balloonists coming to Havasu and they want to do something for the community.
“We thought we would try to do something for the community … for the Lions Club and Rotary to make some income because a lot of charities rely on those donations to survive,” he said.
Balloon festival donations to local nonprofits have totaled more than $1 million combined over the past 10 years.
Although the festival per se has been cancelled, Moore said, “We’re going to try to do a couple of events – to do what we love to do.”
Steve Ticknor, balloon fest committee executive director, said the cancellation was not met with enthusiasm.
“We unfortunately had to cancel the Balloon Fest due to COVID concerns, however we still needed to find a way to raise money for the charities and organizations that count on our support every year,” he said.
Ticknor said the committee decided to have three separate events that would allow for social distancing and keeping people safe.
“I want to send a huge thank you to our title sponsor Anderson Toyota as well as Foothills Bank, Horizon Community Bank, Wire Free Communications and all of our other sponsors that have contributed to help make these events a success,” Ticknor said.
“We are looking forward to a full Balloon Fest in 2022.”
Among fundraising events planned include a 5K walk/run, a drive-in night balloon glow and movie and a golf tournament.
Registration and day-of sign-ups for the 5K walk/run will begin at 7 a.m. Jan. 16, with staggered starts beginning between 8-8:30 a.m., at the Island Trail. Parking will take place in the lot across from the Sam’s Beachcomber Resort. This is not a timed event however participants must finish the walk/run by 10 a.m.
There will be no spectators allowed at the race start/end or along the course.
Cost is $35 per person, $129 for a family (two parents and two children) or $180 for teams of six people.
The Night Balloon Glow and Movie will take place at the Rodeo Grounds from 4:45 to 10 p.m. SARA Park Rodeo Grounds is located at 7206 Dub Campbell Parkway. The admission price is $20 per vehicle, cash only. The movie will be “Up.”
Anderson Automotive Group will host the annual golf tournament Jan. 17, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Refuge Golf Course. Cost is $100 per player.
The tournament will be a 4-person team scramble, shotgun start, featuring buys for mulligans, putts and 50/50 drawings.
Entry includes green fee, golf cart for two people, practice range balls for each player and a goodie bag
Lunch will not be provided.
There will be a hole-in-one prize, along with other prizes.
Sign up online at Golf Tournament registration or call 928-318-9109.
For more information on events or volunteering, contact local Lions or Rotary clubs or email firstname.lastname@example.org and check the festival website at www.havasuballoonfest.com.