By Nicole Matheson
For those who have been around Lake Havasu City for a while, or even a newcomer, chances are there is anticipation for the Havasu Balloon Festival.
This grand scenic event, which brings hundreds from across the country, is once again just around the corner. It begins Jan. 9, at noon and runs through Jan. 12, at 3 p.m. RiverScene talked with Havasu Balloon Festival representatives, Gary Moore – a balloon pilot and event coordinator, and Steve Ticknor – the executive director. Both have been overseeing the festival since it’s inception and are proud to talk about the 10-year milestone of the event.
Helping the Community
What began as a small nonprofit event organized by the local Lions and Rotary clubs has matured into one of the largest fundraising events for the community of Lake Havasu City. Along with celebrating its 10th year, the festival will also have raised $1 million for the community. Just this year, $150,000 went out to the community. It is important to note that all proceeds and profits stay right in Havasu.
The 10th anniversary will honor the memory of Marquita McKnight, who was a founding member of the Balloon Festival.
Bigger Than Ever
The event is at Windsor 4, a perfect location for the spacious requirements needed for the festival. In 2020, the event organizers expect 72 balloons with some special shapes that will debut. Eleven exciting shapes are expected to make an appearance in 2020. “We’ve got a brand-new balloon, a unicorn that’s coming,” says Moore, who isn’t just a coordinator but is also the Balloon Meister.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, Special Shape balloons will be inflated on the grass field at Windsor 4. If you would like to see the Special Shapes or round balloons up close, you may see them at the balloon festival launch field each morning around 7:45 a.m.
Balloons may be the main attraction but this festival is filled with other offerings as well. For $15, patrons can attend all four days and come and go as they please. Children have the opportunity to have a grand time at the fun zone/carnival and there will be a selection of more than 20 food vendors throughout the day. Nonstop entertainment is planned to continue throughout each day with headliners set for the evenings. Entertainment includes local bands, comedians and magicians.
Tethered balloon rides will be offered for $20, or actual balloon rides will be available for $200. Tickets cannot be purchased ahead of time but will be available at the event.
Morning mass ascensions begin a little after 7:30 a.m. each morning. Afternoon ascensions occur around 4pm. Every evening at 6:30 p.m., the crowd-favorite “night glow” is set. All ascensions and glows are weather permitting for safety reasons. Wind speeds and wind direction will determine if balloons fly each scheduled launch.
A Helping Hand
An event this large requires a great amount of helping hands. Thus far, there are 650 volunteer slots yet to fill. Volunteer opportunities include everything from admissions, clean-up, to information booths. In addition, volunteers are needed to assist balloon crews. All volunteers get a free T-shirt with the opportunity to help not just an event, but also the community. Those interested in volunteering should visit havasuballoonfest.com to apply.
In order to accommodate the expected crowds with parking, buses will be available to shuttle people from Lake Havasu High School, Mohave Community College and the Aquatic Center, that will run approximately every 20-30 minutes. This is the recommended method of transportation, however, parking at the site will also be available.
Special Shape Balloons At The 2020 Havasu Balloon Festival: