Throughout the 39 years of producing this annual tradition within North Texas, the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. has never experienced such a devastating loss. The Festival is not a large corporate entity, but rather a 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by 13 Board of Directors. The sadness, and significant economic loss, is shared with the 58 local non-profits, 75 vendors, dozens of sponsors, pilots, crew, and more than 5,000 volunteers who were committed to the event.
The Festival mission is to produce a family-oriented ballooning event to benefit the community. The objective is to also offer other non-profits an opportunity to assist with the operations of the Festival and raise funds. These agencies work the gates, parking lots, kids fun zone and the races. For their services these non-profits are compensated a portion of the revenue. However, this year they earned no money to apply towards their impactful programs within the community.
Catastrophic flash flooding and downpour of rain began on the first day of the Festival. Record-setting water levels swept over the entire park and surrounding trails. The on-site Event Command Team is comprised of the Plano Police and Fire Department, Collin County Sheriff Officers, Collin College Police Department, and the Festival leadership team. After surveying the area with drone coverage provided by the City of Plano, the decision was made by the ECT to cancel the festival and runs. Safety will always be the number one priority.
The unprecedented flooding of the park had a cataclysmic effect on the Festival and all the vendors, sponsors, and contractors that supply equipment and services to the event. Vendors and sponsors had all their food and products washed away and many lost everything that was in the booths. Raging water carried away equipment provided by contractors including 1,000 lb inflatable rides from the kids zone. On-site vendors combed the site and surrounding areas trying to salvage some of their products. The Plano Symphony Orchestra found a trombone more than a mile away from their booth and lost 40 instruments that were in bins but floated away.
The festival board of directors and staff worked all weekend pulling festival supplies from the flood waters and mud, attempting to salvage some of the property used onsite during the event. It is estimated that the torrential rain caused more than $220,000 in damage at Oak Point Park. We are extremely thankful that there have been no reports of injuries despite the challenging conditions in which we were forced to experience.
The view from above at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival at Oak Point Park. #planoballoon
Posted by Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. on Saturday, September 22, 2018
Since Mother Nature intervened, we have washed off the mud and salvaged what remained. The Festival this year will not be rescheduled because of the significant advance preparations and planning that are required. The agonizing decision to cancel all events included the Plano Balloon Festival Races. While runner registration purchased this year is non-refundable, a 2019 Race discount is being offered through the end of December. All online general admission tickets and Kids Fun Zone wristbands purchased for the 2018 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be valid for the 2019 festival.
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#Repost @shirleybarbaro ・・・ @pbfraces were cancelled due to severe flooding. @planorunningclub quickly came up with plan B and many of us got it done unofficially. That’s what community is all about. We pulled together and turned disappointment into triumph. So proud to be part of this group. #stopcomplaining #startdoing #positivity #bettertogether #planorunningclub #runcommunity #noexcuses #pbfraces
Looking ahead to next year, the Festival is honored to celebrate 40 years of ballooning in Plano, the official Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas. We want to say thank you, to all the pilots, crew, non-profits, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, race participants and attendees that have participated since 1980. This award-winning Festival strives to bring families together, to celebrate hot air ballooning, and create a positive impact alongside non-profits within the community.
It is with a charitable spirit that we move forward to begin preparations for the 40th InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival & Run. We hope that attendees will bring their families to continue this annual tradition and experience the beauty and wonder of ballooning.
THE BALLOONIST’S PRAYER
“May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter
And sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”
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Featured photo credit from Twitter: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dn9351BU8AAeCaE.jpg:large