58 balloons to fly in Balloon Classic this weekend

Stark County residents can allow a hot air balloon to land on their property

CANTON, OH (July 16, 2012) – The 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks will be held one week earlier than usual, on Friday, July 20, through Sunday, July 22, at Kent State University at Stark and Stark State College campuses. The earlier date is necessary in order not to conflict with the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships being held in Longview, Texas, during the following week.

“The Enshrinement Festival’s Balloon Classic, in its 26th year, is highly regarded in the ballooning world as a premier event,” noted Maury Sullivan, long-time event director. “Had we not changed our date, it would have significantly impacted the quality and success of our Balloon Classic due to the fact that the most experienced pilots, ballooning officials, scoring teams, and weather experts are already annually committed to the U. S. National Championship.” The date change also eliminates a date conflict with two other major balloon festivals, one in New Jersey and one in Iowa.

Approximate times for scheduled flights, weather permitting, will be Friday at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. There will be 58 awesome sport, commercial and special shape hot air balloons, including The Pig, Annie the Ladybug and Clown-N-Around.

The participating pilots have impressive credentials and hail from 14 different states, including 36 from Ohio. And, participating this year will be two champions representing their respective countries in the upcoming World Hot Air Balloon Championship hosted in Battle Creek, Michigan, August 17-24. Yudai Fujita is the current Japanese National Champion. He has chosen the Enshrinement Festival’s Balloon Classic to hone his skills flying in a format unfamiliar to him—Team Competition. He will be instructed in the finer points of team competition by reigning U.S. National Champion, Nick Donner, who will also be making the trip to Battle Creek to represent the United States.

Canton is only one of the many locations participating pilots have seen from a bird’s-eye view. Many of these pilots have flown all over the world, including Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland, Soviet Union and Spain.

The Dawn Patrol will take place on Friday, July 20, at 5 a.m. If you are an early bird, you won’t want to miss this photo opportunity! Pilots will take off in the dark and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. These balloons create a very strange appearance in the early-morning sky, especially to those on the ground never having experienced this show in the past.

Additional ballooning activities over the weekend include:

  • * Some pilots will compete in a team format for a prize package valued at $19,000, while others will fly “fiesta” in a non-competitive format.
  • * All will participate in a $3,000 Pole Grab, where the pilots will maneuver their balloons over a pole erected on the launch field and attempt to grab the cash from the top of the pole.
  • * 19 pilots will participate in the “Night Glow,” sponsored by Fresh Express/Fishers Foods, on Friday at 9:45 p.m. when they illuminate their balloon envelopes while tethered at the launch field.
  • * The Balloon Education Area, sponsored by Uncrustables, will provide a special opportunity for adults and children to enter a fully inflated balloon envelope and learn about the envelope, balloon basket and burners.
  • * Residents of Stark County can participate in the ballooning excitement by allowing a balloon to land on their property. To signal pilots for landing, place a white sheet in a 200’ x 200’ grassy area. The landing area must be clear of trees and power lines, as well as allow enough space for the balloon to land. The pilots offer landowners the chance to win a $100 U.S. Savings Bond in appreciation of land use.

Great food and entertainment are also on tap at the Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks on Friday and Saturday evenings. There will be a variety of food from more than 20 vendors, a playground of inflatables for children, and musical concerts.

Friday night concerts include performances by Brighter Side at 4 p.m., Wild West Band at 6 p.m., and Buckle Down, sponsored by the Red Dog Saloon, at 9 p.m. Saturday night’s line-up starts with Messy Face at 5 p.m., followed by OFHUMAN at 7 p.m., with Downplay at 9 p.m. and again at 10:30 p.m. at the conclusion of the fireworks. Food Fest hours are Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11:30 p.m., with a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday at 10 p.m.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks event is presented through a cooperative effort between the Canton Regional and Jackson-Belden Chambers of Commerce. For more information, call Laura Perry at (330) 458-2054, or visit the Enshrinement Festival Web site at www.profootballhofef.com.

###