Bicentennial Balloon Festival attracts huge crowd

Participants take a tethered balloon ride Saturday at Hannibal's Bicentennial Celebration.
By Bev Darr, Hannibal Courier-Post Reporter
Posted: Jun. 24, 2019 9:20 pm


Hannibal's Bicentennial Celebration continued into the afternoon Saturday, June 22, with a balloon launch at Hannibal-LaGrange University that was held after the morning parade. The skies cleared for a sunny afternoon and calm evening as the Bicentennial Balloon Festival concluded with an 18-balloon glow display.


Windy weather prevented a sunrise launch intended to close the festivities Sunday morning, said Faye Bleigh, festival volunteer coordinator. 


She estimated more than two thousand people watched the balloons from the lawn at HLGU or across the highway on nearby business parking lots.


Tickets were sold for a ride in a red, black and white balloon that was tethered on the lawn near U.S. 61 junction with Palmyra Road. Winds of more than 10 miles per hour delayed some of the balloon rides, and so many people purchased tickets that there wasn’t enough time for everyone to ride, Bleigh said. 


That was really a draw,” she said. “Everybody wanted a tether ride.”


The balloon that was giving rides was delayed in being launched, possibly because of wind gusts, she said.


Many people arrived before the 6:30 p.m. opening and stayed until after the balloon glow, she said. 


It was a huge success,” Bleigh said. “It was very family-friendly. Kids were running around on the grass and little kids were dancing,” and the vendors reported a very successful day.


At times more than one balloon was visible at the same time, including the first two. They were first seen in the east before they flew over the university buildings, including the Roland Fine Arts Center, where hundreds of people were watching from the sidewalks and lawn.


One balloon came down close to the crowd, and injured at least one person, who was treated by medical personnel for minor injuries.


A total of 18 balloons were included in the balloon glow after dark, Bleigh said. “That was the biggest thing. They all lit up from the top of the hill all the way through to the bottom of the hill.”


She reported people came from across Missouri and several other states. “I have had nothing but really nice compliments, and they say, 'We thank you all for having this.'”


People were asking if the balloon launch could be repeated next year, she said, and this is a possibility. “The balloon meister, Ray Wilson of Quincy, organizes all the balloons and gets all the pilots.”


For more pictures of the Balloon Festival, see photo gallery.





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