Weather deflates Plano Balloon Festival

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on September 18, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 18 at 10:17 PM

PLANO — Plano's Balloon Festival never seemed to get off the ground this year — literally.

Threats of severe weather on Friday, Saturday and Sunday forced organizers to call off the show’s main attraction: The launch of 49 hot air balloons.

“That’s what we’re here for — especially my grandson,” said Corene Wigfall. She waited two hours to watch the launch with her four-year-old grandson, Uriel.

“He was excited; now he’s upset because he’s not going to be able to see the balloons,” Wigfall said.

Around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, crews determined that approaching storms could endanger the balloons. Organizers decided to close the festival early and send everyone home.

It was the third straight day that organizers weren’t able to fly the balloons.

“Mother nature has not smiled on us this weekend very much,” said Jo Via, the festival’s executive director. “It’s very rare for us to have situations where we are not able to launch balloons.”

Via estimates this is only the second time in the event’s 32-year history the balloons were never launched for the celebration.

“We don’t want to be caught in a position where storms come up and our attendees are in danger,” she said.

Typically, the outdoor festival attracts 85,000 people over its three-day run.

On Sunday, Carlos Klein scrambled to pack up his booth selling souvenirs. He estimates his income dropped in half this weekend.

“It’s going to hurt us for the whole year,” he said, adding this is the worst sales weekend he’s had since he began coming here six years ago.

“It’s going to set us back a lot.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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