by Sophia Savva
The Lance – Intern News Reporter
North America’s only cold-air balloon festival attracted thousands downtown this past weekend.
Visitors of all ages flocked to the heart of Windsor from August 16 though 17 for the fourth annual Balloonapalooza, presented by the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA). The family-friendly summer event featured giant inflatables, live music, street vendors, midway rides and games.
Last year, Balloonapalooza attracted over 40,000 visitors and had an economic impact of over $1 million. Debi Croucher, acting executive director of the DWBIA, expects the attendance numbers to show that this year’s Balloonapalooza has rivalled or even surpassed those in the past.
With the exception of the midway, the festival was free, which, according to Croucher, “goes a long way in making the festival accessible to all.”
“The festival’s offerings provide a strong draw to tourists, visitors and the community at large, … economically benefiting all of the businesses in the city centre and many beyond the DWBIA’s boundaries,” said Croucher. “The festival is comprised of local talent … which instills civic pride, and strengthens and unites our community.”
Dynamic Displays, a local company that has participated in Balloonapalooza since it began in 2011, is one such talent. This year, the company brought 40 inflatables to the festival.
Steve Thomson, owner of Dynamic Displays, said Ballonapalooza “is good for the families in Windsor, good for businesses downtown and good for the city as a whole.”
“We are proud to have started here and [to] provide inflatables for global event,” said Thomson. “It is great to bring it home and benefit our city.”
Local businesses and restaurants were able to extend their patios, adding to the pedestrian-friendly atmosphere of the festival. Angelo Marignani, owner and operator of Milk Coffee Bar on University Ave. West, a 15 year-old venue known for featuring local artists and musicians, said the festival attracts diversity to the downtown area which is essential to their businesses.
“[Ballonapalooza] gives people an opportunity to come and enjoy our downtown and celebrate all that is great about Windsor,” said Marignani. “Attractions such as Balloonapalooza are essential for our businesses to move forward and grow. From my observations this morning, our businesses have benefited greatly from this event.”
Live music stages in the streets introduced Windsorites to jazz, blues, acoustic rock, pop, country and funk artists. Urvashi Katiyar, a University of Windsor student who attended the festival, said the live music was her favourite part of the festival.
“It was fun seeing locals dance to the songs, especially older people,” Katiyar said. “Since so many people from Windsor attend, it’s great running into people you know.”