Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bad Luck For Casino Balloon Festival

Winds Cancel Liftoff Of Thirty Hot Air Balloons At Festival

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- More than 30 custom hot air balloons were slated to rise in the skies above Immokalee early Saturday morning, but high winds prevented the launch of the brightly colored balloons. 

(Video: two of the colorful balloons that manages to inflate during the windy morning.)

The Seminole Casino advertised heavily for the 1st Immokalee “Balloons Over Paradise” event taking place April 14th and 15th just west of the Immokallee Regional Airport.  Pilots were scheduled to navigate their hot air balloons to compete for a share of $4,000 in prize money in several ballooning events. 

Hundreds of spectators showed up at early at 6 a.m. to see the colorful balloons engage in games throughout the morning, only to have the events cancelled because of winds blowing between 10 and 15 m.p.h, a bit high to safely launch the wind driven balloons. 

About half the vendor tents were empty Saturday morning, while hundreds of visitors milled around taking photos of the dozen balloons that were inflated. By 8 a.m. all the balloons were deflated by their crews due to the winds.

One of the competitions that may take place Sunday if winds cooperate, is the "hare and hound" competition, where one balloon takes off first and is the hare balloon. The other balloons are called the hounds, and they will launch a predetermined time after the hare.

The hare will land and lay out a large fabric X, about 50 feet in diameter. The hare will then radio the coordinates to the hounds. The hound balloons will attempt to drop their markers as close to the center of the X as possible. The closest marker achieves the highest score.

In the "convergent navigational task," the target is a grid at the festival site. Pilots will fly in and drop their markers on the grid. Scoring is based on the marker’s accuracy and how the pilot flew over the target.

For both contests, the first place prize is $500, second place is $300 and third place is $200.

The colorful balloons will attempt another launch Sunday morning at 6 a.m. with an illuminated light show to the music of a live 4-piece string ensemble. Festival-goers will be able to walk among the balloons as they inflate for what is hoped will be a mass ascension into the skies if winds cooperate, and hopefully remain in the air for several hours. 

Specialty hot air balloons at the event include the Flying Purple People Eater, The  Ham-Let, the world’s largest flying pig; and Miss Daisy, a flower that winks.

Event goers also can enjoy live music by eight acts through the day including John Anderson and Kathy Kosins, food by area vendors and gourmet trucks, arts and crafts, dog shows, carnival games and activities for kids.

The kids’ stage features a puppet show, presentation by local meteorologist Michael Mogil, storytelling, musical zoo sounds and fairy-tale characters. Carnival games include Angry Birds, bean bag toss, tic-tac- toe, milk can toss, skee ball, face painting, tug of war, rock climbing, bungee run, velcro wall, bounce houses, sack races, sumo wrestling and more. Games costs range from 10 cents to one dollar.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Got within about 2 miles at 6:00 this morning. Took 50 minutes to get to the field, another 15 minutes to find parking. Traffic control & parking information was as poor as poor can be. Not only was it difficult to follow signs to parking, it was not apparent that shuttle service was available as many took a long walk to the gate. Police & announcer were trying to get many improperly parked cars to move.
    About 15 balloons were inflated between 6 & 7. Within an hour or so, because of the winds, balloons were deflated. This turned into an art fair(?), with food, music, & $5 parking. If going tomorrow, GO VERY EARLY or have a high risk of missing the launch.