Hot air balloons laid flat in the grass, anxious to be lit up, as the first night of the Kiwanis Indiana Balloon festival took shape Oct. 26.
Located at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, the festival is a three-day event and fundraiser for youth programs in South Central Indiana. This year, it featured an array of vendors, games – and of course – balloons.
Settled into a renovated open-air barn, many vendors displayed their handcrafted work, selling items like jewelry, clothing and baked goods.
Marcia Schaefer, confectioner and owner of Marcia’s Kitchen Creations, filled her table with personal-sized cakes in a variety of delicious flavors.
Marcia said she started baking over 40 years ago, but only started her bakery after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to rekindle her passion for the hobby.
“My son just turned 43, and I started when he was a baby,” Marcia said. “Then I quit and got a ‘real job,’ but after I had my surgeries, I just said I would go back to baking.”
Marcia specializes in cakes, but she also sells cookies, candies and other treats, which all can be found on her Facebook page.
Outside of the barn, attendees swarmed to food trucks, attempted to pop balloons in exchange for stuffed animals, or flew high in the sky on a carnival-like swing ride.
The prominent voice of the “Wheels of Agriculture” host Dave Gerber, better known as “Farmer Dave,” also radiated throughout the festival. “Wheels of Agriculture” is a mobile, audience-interactive game show that raises agriculture awareness and education. Quizzing both kids and adults with various agricultural questions, Gerber’s set featured a spinning wheel, fun prizes and witty humor.
The family game show travels to festivals across the country. Gerber said his audiences always enjoy the shows because they have something for everyone.
“Everybody usually has a fun time, and it’s great because it’s good for all ages,” Gerber said. “So even young kids or adults can all participate and have fun.”
After Gerber’s successful performance, the hot air balloons lying close by in the grass slowly inflated with the help of their pilots.
Traditional hot air balloons rose, filling the fairgrounds with vibrant color. At the same time, balloons resembling familiar shapes and characters – including a haunted mansion, alien spaceship and Woody from “Toy Story” – inflated to show their impressive size.
On the cue of the stage announcer, the pilots filled their balloons with fire, creating a “balloon glow” that radiated throughout the festival.
Onlookers piled into the fairgrounds as all the balloons lit up, many of whom were mesmerized by their beauty.
Audience member Dennis Haejail, a local nurse, recently relocated to Bloomington. Joined by his partner, he said that coming to the balloon festival was a perfect way to get immersed in the city’s activities and experience something new.
“It’s actually our first time attending a festival for hot air balloons, so it’s also our first time seeing one up close,” Haejail said.
Haejail said his favorite part of the night was watching the “balloon glow” and witnessing the intricate process of hot air balloon inflation.
“It’s kind of exciting to see those actually coming to life right in front of us,” Haejail said.