By Becky Maxedon
One of Lake Havasu City’s hallmarks of the event season is fast approaching.
The Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair will be Jan. 20-23, 2022 at Windsor Beach State Park, and organizers are working hard to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch. The theme of the 2022 event is “Flying High in the Desert Skies”.
This marks the 11th year of the Festival in Lake Havasu City, and it has become a real crowd-pleaser and brings audiences as well as participants from around the world.
Executive Director of the Festival, Steve Ticknor, said, “People from all over the world love coming to our event, which features over 70 hot-air balloons, great food, beer gardens, live entertainment, lots of interesting vendors, balloon rides, a carnival and more.”
Ticknor said he became involved with the festival several years ago through the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club and worked with the beer booth sales.
“Eventually I wanted to do more and became co-executive director. I’m now the executive director along with Jerry Ernst,” he said.
His favorite part of the event is the night glow. He said, “It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.”
One of the most popular activities, the Balloon Glow, features a Master of Ceremonies and a DJ with music choreographed to the balloon lights.
The festival is 100 percent volunteer-operated and requires more than 1,200 people to donate their time over the four-day event, not including several days of setup and teardown. Many volunteers work throughout the year on the planning stages as well. The festival was founded by the Lions and Rotary clubs of Lake Havasu and now includes the Kiwanis Club as well.
All proceeds from the event go back to local charities and foundations through these clubs. Over the last 10 events, more than $1 million has been raised and distributed back to the community.
Another festival organizer, Cheryl MacLean, started volunteering in 2010.
“I originally was recruited to participate in four-wheel-drive chase to be on standby in the event that any balloons flew into ‘no-man’s land’. We had very few rescues which took place on the beach – not the desert,” MacLean said.
MacLean was asked to step up to Flight Ops Manager in 2014. She said her job now entails all of the details involved with bringing 75-plus balloon pilots to Lake Havasu.
“Our event has become quite popular with pilots, many of whom are from the north or Midwest and want to enjoy our warmer weather,” she said.
MacLean’s favorite part of the festival is the morning mass ascension. “ … watching all of the beautiful balloons in the air and splashing and dashing in the channel,” she said.
During the morning ascension many of the balloon pilots perform a “splash and dash” over the water very close to the London Bridge in the channel, bringing the balloon baskets right down to almost touching the water.
“We have a total of 76 balloons this year, including eight special shapes,” MacLean said.
New shapes this year include a Sloth, Unicorn, Tiger, Striker, Party Balloon and Cork the dog. She said festival organizers try to bring different special shapes each year, but also bring back crowd favorites like Darth Vader and Yoda.
Both Ticknor and MacLean encourage volunteers to participate.
People can sign up to volunteer through the website at havasuballoonfestival.com. Organizers are looking for volunteers for many positions, such as ticket sales, trash collection, ice distribution, information booth and more.
“We are especially grateful for our Title Partner, Anderson Toyota, coming back for another year and supporting the Balloon Festival at Winsor Beach State Park (Windsor 4),” Ticknor said.
More than 25,000 visitors are expected to attend the festival. Ticket prices are $20 and they are good for all four days. Children 10 and under are free.
There will be plenty of free offsite parking with four huge lots that attendees can use, with busses and shuttles to bring people to and from the front gates. Balloon flights and glow are subject to weather conditions.
There’s a wide variety of entertainment with several local and national bands performing on the main stage. In addition, there will be magic acts, kite flying demonstrations, dog shows, jugglers and more throughout the weekend.
There will be a carnival featuring thrilling rides, game booths and food. In addition, there will be a 5K Fun Run and Balloon Festival Golf Tournament.
For more information, please visit www.havasuballoonfestival.com