Great Midwest Balloon Fest looks for great weather this weekend
Robbie Small has one message she wants to spread: The weather this weekend should be just about perfect for a festival dedicated to hot air balloons.
The forecast calls for a moderately sunny day on Saturday but rain on Friday. However Small, co-director of the Great Midwest Balloon Fest, says local meteorologists have assured her that the rain will move on by 2 p.m. at the latest, leaving a couple hours to dry out before the 4 p.m. start time.
Schedule of Events
4 p.m. Gates open
4-5:30 p.m. Giant kites flying
4-6:30 p.m. Hayrides and train rides
4-10 p.m. Live bands and street performers on the Beer Garden Stage; Carnival and Kidz Zone open
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Halloween costume contest semi-finals (Kidz Zone; finals at 5:45 p.m.)
4:30-8:30 p.m. Tethered balloon rides
5 p.m. Pie eating contest (tether balloon area)
6:15 p.m. Special shape balloons inflate
6:45 p.m. Standard balloons inflate
6:45-8:15 p.m. Balloon glow/trick or treat
12-6 p.m. Carnival open
2 p.m. Gates open
2-4:45 p.m. Giant kite exhibition
2-6:30 p.m. Hayrides and train rides
2-10 p.m. Live bands and street performers on the Beer Garden Stage; Carnival and Kidz Zone open
3:30-4:30 p.m. Halloween costume contest semi-finals (Kidz Zone area; finals at 5 p.m.)
4:30 – 8:30 p.m. Tethered balloon rides
5 p.m. Pie eating contest
6:15 p.m. Special shape balloons inflate and glow
6:45 – 8:45 p.m. Standard balloons inflate and glow; Trick or Treat
7:30 a.m. 5k Race with the balloons
12-6 p.m. Carnival
“We suggest that people try to come then, because Saturday will be a zoo,” she said.
The balloon festival this year is making its home at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, running 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, with a 5k run, events for participating balloons and carnival continuing Sunday. If things go well, the festival will remain at the Ag Hall for at least two more years.
The event also has moved its date from late summer to October, giving it earlier sundown times for the balloon “glows,” and the festival will have a Halloween “Glows and Goblins” theme this year.
But Small said there are plenty of other activities going on prior to balloon inflation at about 6 p.m., so she advised that attendees try to arrive well before balloon inflation — parking lots at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater will even open a couple of hours before the gates do, and there are plenty of other activities to take advantage of before the balloons.
“I’d say make sure you get there between 4 and 5, if you want a good place to park and you want to get in and get settled,” Small said. “There are kites that are flying in the afternoon both days, and a wonderful beer garden and Kidz Zone with all kinds of stuff.”
The aforementioned beer garden will have bands, drinks and food, while the Kidz Zone includes performers, bouncy houses, the Halloween Costume contest, a balloon workshop and other activities. Plus the Ag Hall will offer train rides and living history.
Another activity that begins early is for those who want the experience of going up in a balloon. Tethered balloon rides begin at 4:30 p.m. each day for just $15 for adults and $10 for children.
“So they want to get there before the lines get nuts,” Small advised.
Untethered 50-minute balloon rides also are available for $235 and can be purchased by calling Jason Jones at 913-338-2628 and reserved in advance online at greatmidwestballoonfest.com under Event Info/Balloon Rides.
Even if they don’t participate in the costume contest, children are invited to wear their costumes and trick-or-treat among the balloons in the evening.
The list of special shape balloons has been finalized, now to include an Angry Bird from the game of the same name, a monster known as “Buzzy,” a haunted house, a scarecrow, a Purple People Eater monster, and the Old Lady and the Shoe, from the nursery rhyme.
The potential of such a unique event making its home in Bonner Springs has local officials excited.
“Not only is it bringing visitors to our city, it’s introducing our community to those who may have never visited,” said Regina Utter, executive director of the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville Chamber of Commerce. “There is so much to do and see in Bonner Springs, and there are a lot of families in the Kansas City metro who are unfamiliar with the area. Next year, I’d like to see more community marketing in conjunction with the festival.”
Utter said the festival should also be a great benefit to the city’s businesses and hotels along Kansas Highway 7.
The chamber is among the local groups who are helping the festival out by providing volunteers. Small said volunteer positions still are available by contacting Elizabeth Fulton at email@example.com.
Tickets are available at area Hy-Vee stores or online at greatmidwestballoonfest.org. Tickets will be available at the gate for slightly higher prices than advance tickets.
General parking, accessed from 130th Street, is free, and premium parking passes are $10 per car.