Indiana Daily Student

Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest takes place for seventh year in a row

Hot air balloons decorated the sky during the 7th annual Kiwanis Club of South Central Indiana Balloon Fest from Sept. 6-8, 2019. During the festival, spectators could look at hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes, giant kites, skydivers, and other forms of entertainment. 

The Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Festival took place this weekend for the seventh year in a row at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.

Some of the balloons that were highlights included Tweety Bird, a Smiley Scarecrow, a haunted mansion balloon from Oklahoma and a “Wizard of Oz” balloon. 

“They are balloons we don’t normally see in the community and to see them here is pretty awesome,” said Vanessa McClary, the organizer and founder of the balloon festival.

Chip Curtis Jr. is a hot air balloon owner and piloted his balloon, "The Wind Rose," during the festival.

"I've been all over the world," Curtis said. "I go anywhere the wind blows."

The “Wind Rose” hot air balloon floats in the sky Sept. 6, 2019, at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. Pilot Chip Curtis Jr. owns the balloon. Alex Deryn

Although the balloons didn’t launch until 6 p.m., there were multiple activities to do during the day. From helicopter rides to a giant kite exhibit to the Pep Boys Car and Bike Show, there were several booths to keep festival-goers busy. Pyrotechnic skydivers with LED lights were also a huge crowd pleaser as they dove during the night after the balloons went up.

“We were looking for something unique to the community and brand our Kiwanis club,” McClary said.    

The Kiwanis club is a group of volunteers who give back to the community. The goal at the beginning was to get a group of pilots together and fundraise, and as the years have gone on, they have been able to give up to $30,000 to charities.

“The unique things they bring to the community are also bringing families together while supporting Kiwanis,” McClary said.

Pilot Travis Vencel opens his hot air balloon’s canvas Sept. 6, 2019, at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. Vencel owns TJV Balloons and operates an Oliver Winery hot air balloon. Alex Deryn

Community involvement has been greater as the years have gone on. This year they’ve had volunteers of all ages from the Kiwanis Club, including elementary school-level volunteers called “K Kids,” high school key clubs and college-level Circle K members. 

Something McClary has seen change over the years is the number of families that attend the festival. 

“As a society, we’ve all gotten so busy that it’s so cool to see families come together to an event like this,” McClary said.  

Hot air balloons float in the moonlight Sept. 7, 2019, at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. Balloons light up from their burners during the “Balloon Glow” session during the Kiwanis Club of South Central Indiana Balloon Fest. Alex Deryn

Bloomington is a relatively medium-sized town, but bringing the community together by having a balloon festival and showcasing balloons from all over the nation is truly a unique way to brand the Kiwanis club.

“It’s not just the Kiwanis Club but the Kiwanis family,” McClary said.

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