It was a record-breaking weekend at the All Ohio Balloon Fest. Saturday’s festival attendance approached 15,000 with weekend participation of about 27,000. Above, children were the center of Saturday’s activities as superheroes, zoo animals and fun music were there to make children smile and dance. Left, Zach Hulsmeyer, of Minster, uses the festival as a backdrop to pop the question to his girlfriend, Kendra Williams. While there, Hulsmeyer took a knee and asked Williams to be his wife. Williams said ‘Yes.’ Right, the balloons are also a fan focus at the AOBF. Despite high altitude winds, the FAA allowed some balloon pilots to fly Saturday evening.
(Balloon Fest photos by Paul Vernon)
—-It was a record weekend for the All Ohio Balloon Fest (AOBF) as the city kicked off its 200th birthday.
“If we were the lead-off hitter for the city’s Bicentennial, I think we hit one out of the park at the Balloon Festival,” said Balloon Fest organizer Kevin Behrens.
The festival, which featured entertainment by 38 Special, Blue Kuda, Aaron Lewis, Saving Jane and Bon Journey, set a single-day attendance record Saturday with nearly 15,000 participants.
“When the festival parking overflowed to the airport runway and all the hotel rooms in town were sold for the weekend, we knew there were a lot of people in town for the All Ohio Balloon Festival,” Behrens said.
Behrens said festival-goers appreciate that a Friday ticket will get them in the gate on Saturday as well. He said that with the record weekend, the festival had a weekend total attendance of about 27,000.
“When people talk about what sets their community apart from others many look at the AOBF as something that has added to the local quality of life for the last 44,” Behrens said. “The All Ohio Balloon Festival was established by Jack Scott and John Feenstra in 1975, and has been celebrated by the residents every year after.”
Behrens said families come and volunteers “sign up to work year after year knowing this benefits a charity.”
Organizers explained that while it has long been a favorite festival for locals, it has increasingly been a draw for people from other communities.
One out of town couple wanted to make this year’s AOBF a key part of its story.
Zach Hulsmeyer, of Minster, invited his girlfriend, Kendra Williams, to the event Saturday. While there, Hulsmeyer took a knee and asked Williams to be his wife. Williams said ‘Yes.’
Organizers said the attendance numbers are, “nice, but the real story behind the festival is that money raised at the festival stays local.
Behrens said the event raised $15,000 for the Hope Center. He said festival organizers enjoy being able to give back to a local organization, the festival relies on the organization and its people to make the festival happen.
“We know how much work all of the volunteers put in,” said Event Coordinator Marie Woodford. “It is really great to see this many people giving back to their community and helping with this fun event. We can’t do this without the volunteers. We will have an ad thanking all of these great people in Friday’s Journal-Tribune.”
Behrens added, “This was the first year the Hope Center led the volunteer recruiting charge and we can’t say enough about the job Becky Bolt and Tish Miller did to get help for the balloon crews. They were very organized throughout the process. They were able to recruit outstanding volunteers and got them there on time and got them where they needed be. Knowing they had enough equipped volunteers allowed Marie and I to concentrate on the rest of the festival.”
Behrens said he appreciated being part of the city’s birthday celebration and is looking forward to a similar good time next year as Union County turns 200.
“We are already making plans for the festival,” Behrens said.
The AOBF is scheduled for Aug. 13-15, 2020. Those interested are invited to follow the All Ohio Balloon Fest on the festival website or Facebook page.
The city will continue its Bicentennial celebration this week. The Uptown will be closed Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s celebration will include live music, a vintage car show with Mid-Ohio cruisers, kids’ activities in Partners Park, a zip line on Fifth Street and a variety of vendors, including food trucks.
The music will begin at 4 p.m. with headliner McGuffey Lane at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s festivities will offer similar activities and include an Extreme Zone with a climbing wall and obstacle course. Much of Partners’ Park will be activities for kids.
Saturday music, which will feature seven bands throughout the day, will begin at 11:30 a.m. and will culminate with Runaway Jane at 8 p.m. The evening will conclude with fireworks about 10 p.m.
Parking will be available free at the Union County Fairgrounds. There will be a free shuttle to and from the Fairgrounds and Uptown Marysville.
The shuttle will run Friday, from 4 to 11 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m.
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