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Our View: No balloons lifting off, but festival still success by some measures

January 23, 2018 GMT

Finally, balloons.

Havasu residents were treated to a colorful show Monday morning as a few dozen hot air balloons took flight. It was something of a consolation for many of us who waited all weekend for the winds to calm down so we could enjoy a proper balloon festival. If you somehow slept through the weekend, you already know that never happened.

Three days of bad weather create difficult circumstances for an event that is wholly at the mercy of Mother Nature. That said, there’s a silver lining to these storm clouds – the fact that so many people were disappointed shows just how much people look forward to the balloon festival each year. It’s a bright spot in a dreary time of year, and balloons or not, the festival consistently shows the best of what Havasu has to offer as a community.

And the festival’s success is Havasu’s success, considering it consistently pumps thousands back into the community through donations to local nonprofits.

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Balloon Fest is a machine that runs on volunteers, and nearly 1,500 of them were working this year to ensure another successful community event. With a new location and new date, this year’s festival was supposed to be better than ever before. And despite appearances, you could argue that it was.

The new location at Lake Havasu State Park meant traffic problems caused by bottlenecks getting on and off the Island were a thing of the past. The shuttles from various locations around Havasu meant getting to the festival was easier than ever. The area near the festival grounds – specifically London Bridge Road between the Bridge and Industrial Boulevard – was much busier than normal, but traffic flowed relatively well.

What didn’t flow so well this year was communication. In this age of social media and instant communication, Balloon Festival organizers could have done a lot more to let the community know what was happening. Instead, residents were left scratching their heads, helped only by infrequent updates on the festival’s Facebook page. It’s abundantly clear there’s not a point person designated to communicate with the public and the media, and that’s how miscommunication occurs. It’s something that should be addressed for future events.

In any case, Balloon Festival organizers say they’re happy with this year’s show. The balloons may not have reached great heights this year, but that has always been a possibility considering Mother Nature’s fickle attitude this time of year. It’s why organizers have built so much more into the festival so that it’s not just balloons. A midway, plenty of entertainment and a host of vendors packed into a carnival atmosphere ensure that even when the balloons don’t fly, everyone can still have a good time.

— Today’s News-Herald