The 1986 Balloonfest in Cleveland When 1.5 Million Balloons Were Set Free
The Balloonfest from back in 1986, was an idea of epic proportions held by organisers part of the United Way of Cleveland. This balloonfest, as it was called, was possible thanks to a literal army of volunteers who, working all hours of the day, were able to fill 1.5 million balloons with helium and then release them all at once.
An amazing sight, to say the least, to see so many balloons filling the sky all throughout the city, but unfortunately enough, something like this had a lot of negative side effects. While the balloonfest did break the world record and people in the city were amazed by the sight, the 1.5 million balloons lead to two deaths and millions of o dollars in damages and lawsuits.
Several thousand people worked tirelessly to inflate those many balloons after which they released them under a huge net. After all of them were filled with helium, the net was released and the balloons flew away. A literal cloud of balloons filled downtown Clevland. The photos part of Ballonfest ’86 are incredible and surreal to a certain extent. But what wanted to be a harmless, fun and amazing fundraising event, turned out to be more than anyone bargained for.
Soon after the balloons were released, a stormed began moving in from the Great Lakes region, pushing the balloons down to the street level, blocking traffic and even grounding planes trying to take off, as well as planes trying to land at the local airport. Outside of the city, the balloons made it to a pasture in Medina County, where some prize-winning horses got scared and injured themselves. The owner later sued them for $100,000.
An even more unfortunate event took place over the lake, where the Coast Guard said that the balloon curtain made it impossible to fly by helicopter. Two sailors needed help since they were stranded, but the Coast Guard had to delay their flight. Once they could fly, however, the weren’t able to differentiate between the sailors and the balloons and the two men unfortunately died.
During the following days, the Canadian side of Lake Erie was also flooded with supposedly biodegradable balloons. Now, there were several problems with the Balloonfest ’86 event, not to mention the vast amount of helium wasted. But the biggest mistake was the fact that nobody bothered to check the weather.