Citrus Classic Balloon Festival relies on volunteers, supporters, and weather

August 10, 2011
Santa Paula News

Attendance at the 4th Annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival has not been finalized, but it’s more than apparent the thousands of visitors would not have had an event to enjoy without the close working relationships of those behind the scenes.

“There was a real sense of camaraderie between everyone involved, from pilots and vendors to volunteers and bands” and beyond, said Festival Founder/Coordinator Carla Edwards. 

That’s covering a lot of territory: hundreds of volunteers and others are required to stage the event that this year was expanded to three days, filling the Limoneira Soccer Fields with dozens of vendors, entertainment, competitions, a kids play area and exhibits of all kinds. The event showcases the orchards and mountains of Santa Paula that surrounded the fields where balloons glowed Friday and Saturday evening, lightly dancing to the ocean breeze.

Edwards said many visitors were enamored of Santa Paula’s mostly mild weekend weather and the ocean breeze that never quite makes too far east of the city. Festivalgoers also enjoyed the entertainment: “The event really helps our musical talent... just from the exposure at the festival they were getting bookings” through those audience members with their own need of entertainment.

Although overcast morning weather conditions only allowed one mass ascension on Sunday and no Hare & Hound Race, once back at the festival balloon pilots still had a combination of competitions that tested their air-related skills. The Hare & House prize purse was split between the pilots to help offset their expenses.

Edwards said there were also “gifts that help them with their ballooning.” Supporting the participation of 30 balloonists “all in all cost close to $14,000,” and “our insurance was $10,500 alone... that’s why we can’t have a for free festival. With the music, equipment rents” and other expenses, costs run high.

And just as the balloons can move up and down, so do events that impact the festival. “More variables that are predicated on things like weather can impact the whole day” of event activity scheduling, as well as other aspects of the overall event.

But the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival remains memorable and in some cases life changing: 10 balloons were able to launch early Sunday morning, while two were tethered offering a gentle sample of ballooning.

Edwards said John Procter, the “Voice of the Festival,” went up and away and was able to lean out and “picked part of a palm tree... and one gentleman I saw had just taken his first balloon ride and he was trembling all over. I said to him are you all right? ‘Am I all right? No... I am fantastic, I just took my first balloon ride!’ I could never describe it, he was on fire and walking so fast... those are the moments you look for.”

On Friday and Saturday evenings the faces of kids and adults seeing the nighttime show of the flame used to create the hot air to inflate the balloon showed there is more than one reason it is known as the Glow. But the still troubled economy had its impacts on the celebration, with lower attendance experienced during the days.

“Sunday people didn’t expect the balloons to take off,” but, noted Edwards, “they did... and KTLA Channel 5 was here for hours that morning” and also had filmed the evening Glows for later broadcast. “We’re really thankful that the festival is on that next level of media coverage,” which is good for the celebration and the Santa Paula area in general.

But what remains to be seen is if the event was profitable: “We spend so much for insurance, and this year we had new city expenses” as well as the loss of other city financial support. “We’ll see... all the money made” is distributed among various area nonprofits and ultimately, noted Edwards, their services are what are impacted.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.