Centralia Balloon Fest battles weather issues, but crowds still good  

Centralia Balloon Fest battles weather issues, but crowds still good  

Sunday night ballooning in Foundation Park as crews gave rides and inflated for the crowd for about a half-hour after questionable weather kept the balloonists in the park.  Photo by Bruce Kropp.

Centralia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marcus Holland and this year’s Balloon Fest Chairman is pleased with the event, despite having to battle weather issues.

He notes there were several new events and the Head East concert that had to be canceled due to thunderstorms on Saturday night drew a nice crowd on Sunday afternoon.

“We did have a lot of added events as well as making sure all the balloons took off from the park so then pilots could meet in the park.  That helps everybody be more informed as well.  We tried to keep people up to date through the media as well as on Facebook.  I hope everybody was able to take part in this weekend’s events and see the balloons, but also come out and enjoy all the activities we had,” said Holland.

And while attendance figures have not yet been compiled, Holland reports there was a good turnout.

“Parking lot was full Saturday night.  We were looking at what the food vendors and craft vendors were reporting to us and everybody was super happy.  They seemed very busy and the crowds were great.  They are very excited to see the balloons, but Saturday night was a little disappointing with the weather rolling in.  Once there is lightning there isn’t much we can do but to make sure everyone seeks shelter and are safe,” said Holland.  “I’m glad on Sunday we had some balloons in the park.  We want everyone to share their photos, tell us good stories, and keep the positivity up for the future.”

This year’s Balloon Meister Scott McClinton says the pilots wanted to do something on Sunday night when conditions would not allow flights and came up with inflating all the balloons for about 30 minutes.

“We were in a position where even the National Weather Service says 50-50 on showers and storms.  When no one can make a decision, the bottom line is we have to error on the side of safety so we decided to stay in the park which assured beautiful weather,” said McClinton.

McClinton said the unexpected development of severe weather on Saturday night was a disappointment and unexpected.   The Balloonists were already preparing for the Balloon Glow when the weather problems first caused them to put their balloons away and then eventually leave the park ahead of the anticipated bad weather.     Nearby thunderstorm activity also caused the Saturday and Sunday morning flights to be canceled.

The clouds part to create bright shadows in Catfish Pond for the balloons that inflated in Foundation Park Sunday evening. Photo by Bruce Kropp.