This post was originally published on August 10, 2018 and updated to reflect the 2019 festival dates.
I always said I would never ride in a hot air balloon…until I did. When I returned to the Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2014, I learned our organization was the proud owner of a hot air balloon named Independence. As part of my due diligence I joined our pilot, Phil Clinger from Altitude Endeavors, at the Kentucky Derby Festival that year. I wanted to learn about the balloon and the exposure we were getting by flying our American Flag themed balloon in festivals around the Midwest. My plan was to keep two feet on the ground at all times and take in the sights from ground level. Well, that changed quickly and Phil talked me into taking flight in the Visit Findlay Balloon. WOW, what an experience!
Phil took the opportunity to show me the mechanics of flying the balloon and while he had me captive in the air, he ever so kindly dropped the hint that the balloon was aging and we should start thinking about buying a new balloon….That wasn’t scary at all being thousands of feet in the air and the pilot tells you the balloon is OLD! Independence was purchased as a used balloon and had a few details added to it to make it special to Flag City and promote VisitFindlay.com.
Over the course of 2 years Phil and I discussed the cost involved and how we would make the purchase of a BRAND NEW balloon work. As Independence flew in festivals throughout 2017, the flag was noticeably becoming light pink, dingy white, and light blue, instead of the proud red, white and blue that it should be! So we started our journey down the path of designing a hot air balloon.
The conversation heated up in November of 2017 and, with the help of staff and friends, we went through over 20 designs….or more. Just ask Phil – it was painful! With a clean slate we debated a more colorful balloon with lots of colors to real life graphics of Findlay printed on the fabric. Ultimately, we determined to stay true to the Flag City treatment and use an updated flag theme. But then, that looked pretty plain. So back to the drawing board it was. To highlight the community that we love (I mean, we were just named a Best Hometown by Ohio Magazine!), we designed a skyline that depicts various landmarks throughout Hancock County. University of Findlay’s Old Main, Hancock County Courthouse, Pioneer Sugar Mills, Marathon Petroleum Corporate Headquarters, an oil derrick, the water tank on the North side of town, and farming equipment. Oh, and a large area to promote Findlay, Ohio and VisitFindlay.com.
Then the sewing began! Over a four month period of time, the balloon was pieced together. It was like Christmas morning when we would receive photo updates throughout the process.
After a long 9 months, on the evening of August 2nd, 2018 and exactly one week before the start of Flag City BalloonFest, we received word that we would have a new hot air balloon to debut at our very own hometown festival. Findlay, we are pleased to introduce our
baby balloon, Liberty, weighing in at 273 pounds and standing 80 feet tall!
You can see Liberty and the other balloons at the Flag City BalloonFest take flight August 9-11, weather permitting! See the full schedule of events taking place at BalloonFest here.