MACHIAS, Maine — The plug has been pulled on an October hot air balloon event in Machias.
It was last fall when Kathy Howell, executive director of the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, first asked about requesting permission from the Machias Board of Selectmen to use the town-owned Machias Valley Airport to stage what was to be the first annual Bold Coast Balloon Festival.
Although the hot air balloon extravaganza was scheduled and advertised for the weekend of Oct. 5-6, 2012, that request for permission never found a place on the selectmen’s agenda.
“I kept asking the town manager [Christopher Loughlin] when I would be coming before the board to get permission,” Howell said. “He said August would be fine, but that didn’t work for me. I’m a long-term planner and will not be rushed in planning this. I did not feel comfortable making decisions and getting commitments from pilots without the approval of the town in place.”
Loughlin said Monday that he appreciates the logistical challenges inherent in such an event and that he looks forward to next year’s festival.
The 2013 Bold Coast Balloon Festival, with the selectmen’s recent blessing, is now scheduled for the weekend of October 11-12 and will be the inaugural event, winds and other weather permitting.
“The Machias Valley Airport has been under study since February by the Balloon Foundation of America, which is the national governing agency for hot air balloon events,” Howell said. “They are looking at how winds and sea breezes affect flying conditions. There are a lot of pieces involved in pulling together an event like this. It requires very careful planning.”
Howell, who has been running the chamber since last fall since moving to the area from Ohio, is a hot air balloon enthusiast.
“I crewed for a balloon in Kentucky when I was in college, and now I’m hooked,” she said Monday. “I’ve been involved in balloon festivals for the last 20 years.”
Howell said she attended last weekend’s balloon event in Presque Isle, which featured about a dozen crews. She distributed applications there for next year’s event in Machias and said applications will soon be available on the Chamber’s website.
Howell said the cancellation of this year’s event was something of a blessing in disguise.
“I did get my way,” she said. “Now I get an extra year of planning.”