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Balloonfest brings in visitors and dollars

October 26, 2011

Another Balloonfest has
come and gone and the
Poteau Chamber of
Commerce is still reeling
from the more than 20,000
attendees of this year's festival.
According to Poteau
Chamber President, Karen
Wages, the first year the
Chamber has organized the
event was a huge success.
They set goals for sponsorship
that were met and the
arm band sales were above
and beyond all they had
imagined.
On Friday, the Chamber
was hectic with pre-sales
causing them to open a virtual
drive through to meet the
demand of the more than
3,000 armbands they sold
and over $7,000 in concert
tickets. This large turnout
has already caused the
Chamber to begin preparations
for next year's festival
with the promise of bigger
and better things to come.
The total increase in revenue
across the area due to the
Balloonfest will not be available
for a couple of months,
but the numbers are guessed
to be substantial.
“We definitely did our job
in creating income for the
local businesses and the city,”
said Wages. “The hotels were
full, the convenience stores
stayed busy, the local restaurants
were packed and visitors
were out shopping during
their stay.” Not only did
the out of town visitors help
increase local revenue, the
carnival bought supplies for
their stands locally, the workers
spent money on food and
laundry and several Mud Pit
contestants stayed overnight,
purchasing gas, food and
supplies.
While the weather played
a part in the disappointing
final night of the event, raining
out the Saturday night
balloon glow and canceling
the Kentucky Headhunters,
the overall event totaled two
days of festive family fun.
“The festival is a weather
permitting event,” said
Wages. “It was unfortunate
that the rain came when it
did. The Kentucky
Headhunters made the call
not to play due to the lightning
and the rain. There was
little we could do about the
decision. It was in the
Kentucky Headhunters' contract
to make the decision to
cancel the concert in case of
inclement weather.” The
possibility of moving the
concert to an indoor venue
due to the outbreak of dangerous
weather was unrealistic
according to Wages. “It
took two days to set up the
stage and to have the sound
equipment readied. There
was no possible way to
change venues and have a
concert in 45 minutes. If
there would have been any
alternative to canceling the
concert, we would have done
so.”
In a statement released by
the Kentucky Headhunters
on Tuesday, they voiced their
regret to the people of Poteau
and the many fans who traveled
to see them live in concert.
“All day long it was blue
skys and great weather. Then
ten minutes before we go on
stage..it comes a hurricane,”
said Richard Young. “This
was the first show in 21 years
the Kentucky Headhunters
played that was completely
flooded out. I know you guys
hadn’t had rain since April. 1 just wish it would have waited
a couple more hours. When we got home yesterday we had
to unpack all our equipment in storage to dry. We we’re very
disappointed we didn’t get to play. It was our last official
show of the year.”
The chamber, who carried total event insurance that covered
a rain-out, is waiting on the official answer from the
insurance company to determine if they are eligible for the
reimbursement of the $15,000 cost of the Kentucky
Headhunters.
Many people were disappointed by the missing Saturday
night glow balloons but the Federal Aviation Administration
representatives that were present for the two-day event
ordered the balloons out of the sky due to extreme lightning
and high winds.
“The FAA regulate the balloons,” said Wages. “They are
dependent on the wind entirely, there are no controls. They
have to file flight plans and follow all FAA regulations and
when they were told to shut down, they had no choice.”
The Chamber would like to remind those planning to
attend next year's Balloonfest that it is very important to park
in designated parking.
“Several people parked along the highway this year,” said
Wages. “They were asked to move because of the danger to
other motorists. Please do not park along the highway or in
the ditches. The safety of everyone attending the event along
with passerbys is of utmost importance. All entrances and
exits need to be clear of vehicles so traffic merging back onto
the highway can clearly see all oncoming traffic to prevent an
accident.”
The Chamber is already beginning the organization of next
year's event in preparation of an even larger attendance. They
are already arranging for more tethered balloon rides, reviewing
carnival contracts and searching for more bigger and
better attractions.
The winners of the various competitions that occurred during
the 2011 Balloonfest will be featured by PDN later this
week.

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