Visitors from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau and beyond descended upon Farmington this past weekend to participate in the Second Annual Parkland Balloon Festival held at Engler Park and the Farmington Regional Airport.
Sponsored by the Farmington Convention and Tourism Bureau, the city of Farmington, and the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the annual event brought more than 5,000 guests to Engler Park to participate in the event.
“It was just a fantastic weekend,” said Chris Engler, convention and tourism bureau spokesperson. “We had a lot of fun activities for the kids to do during the day and then people started (showing up) for the balloon glow.”
Building on last year’s success, the festival expanded its afternoon events at both Engler Park and the airport and offered several events for the entire family to enjoy.
“We brought in Unbeliebabubble Bubbleball which was really popular with the older kids,” Engler said. “For the smaller kids, we brought in a small train for them to ride and that never stopped running the entire day.”
In addition to bubbleball and train rides, parents and families enjoyed some of the other events being offered. Back by popular demand, there was a petting zoo and pony rides for the small children.
While the park was hopping during the day, the regional airport next door was also busy. For the first time the festival offered drone racing. In addition, the airport also sponsored a radio controlled plane show.
“We had a tremendous turnout this year, more than last year,” said Chuck Sitzes, the airport manager. “It was a little too windy for some of the smaller RC planes, but the bigger planes flew, and quad races went well.”
As expected, the event that drew most people to the park was the Hot Air Balloon Glow held on the edge of the lake in the park.
“We were fortunate with the weather. The winds could have made a difference,” Engler said. “But the winds died down just in time for us to have a wonderful glow down by the lake. We had 12 or so balloons that made for a lovely glow.”
On Sunday morning many area residents noticed a fleet of hot air balloons flying over their homes and even landing in their yards. As a final festival wrap up, the pilots, along with a few very lucky guests, took to the skies for a trip.
“It was really amazing,” said A.J. Baumer, one of the guests who flew with Pilot Jason Gaines and the St. Louis Ballooning Adventures balloon. “It was definitely an awesome experience.”
Engler said she had thought the event went extremely well.
“I was fortunate to have the help from the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce. They came in and helped with the vendors and the merchants which was a big help to me. And I can’t say enough about the police and fire department or the city workers. The worked from dawn to after dusk.”
In conjuntion with the festival, DiscoverFarmington and the Farmington Press is holding, for the second year in a row, a photo contest for pictures taken during the event.
Entries can focus on everything the festival had to offer – from the family fun events at Engler Park, the events at the Farmington Regional Airport, as well as the hot air balloon glow.
A category has been added for this year’s contest for photos taken by youth ages 16 and under.
Prizes will be awarded by the convention and tourism bureau to the first, second and third place photo, plus the top youth photo. The prize amounts are $200 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third place. The top youth photos receives a $50 prize.
A link to the contest and details can be found at dailyjournalonline.com/contests/balloon.
Photos need to be submitted by Sept. 17, with voting from Sept. 18-28. Winners in each category will be announced Sept. 30.
Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or at firstname.lastname@example.org