From the planning, cooking, activities and demonstrations, to the rescue boats, shuttle drivers and trash cleanup crews, the volunteers at the eighth annual Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair are celebrating another successful and fun-filled event.
“These volunteers make it happen,” said Balloon Festival board member Jim Day. “There are a lot of moving parts, and without the various volunteers we wouldn’t be able to keep it going.”
Day said the festival, which took place this year Jan. 19-21, is run completely by volunteers: both during the event itself, as well as for the planning and coordinating that goes on behind the scenes throughout the year. Day estimated that this year’s event included the efforts of more than 1,400 volunteers.
The funds raised during the festival are divided between two local Lions and three Rotary clubs, which then donate all the money back into other various local nonprofits.
“All of the money goes right back into the local community,” Day said. “And we try to keep our overhead low so more proceeds go back into the community.”
The Balloon Festival Volunteer Chairperson Rick Kerber said that for all the effort and hard work, the results are worth it.
“The biggest thing is that this is for charity, and you have to feel good about contributing to charity,” Kerber said. “All the money stays local here in Havasu.”
Kerber said that part of his duties in coordinating the volunteer corps is to show them appreciation, with the goal of “giving them a positive experience” in addition to providing event-goers with a fun and well-run event.
“I enjoy working with everyone and getting to know everyone,” Kerber said.
Flight operations volunteers Cheryl Maclean and Becky Goldberg, who have been donating time to the festival for eight and seven years respectively, work with the balloon pilots, crews and sponsors to ensure they have what they need throughout the weekend event.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but very gratifying,” Goldberg said. “It benefits the community through the Rotary and it’s all about giving back.”
“You meet a lot of great people doing this,” Maclean said. “I love working with the pilots. “We’ve become really close friends with many of them; they’re awesome.”
Maclean said that this year’s event included 66 pilots. The most the event has ever had was 80.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Maclean said. “I enjoy it year to year to year.”
According to Day, the Balloon Festival and Fair usually begins accepting volunteers four to six months before the January event via its website. Volunteer information, as well as more general information on the festival, can be found at https://havasuballoonfest.com.