Balloons are coming back!

VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. - VERMILION COUNTY -- Hot air balloons are coming back to town. A new festival is planning to launch this summer, 15 years after the Illinois Balloon Classic got grounded. People in the community refused to give up on this idea.

The passion for balloons is still strong in the Danville area. So organizers say they're excited to see this event take off to continue the tradition they loved when they were kids.

People say they know the sound of hot air balloons well and it reminds them of good memories.

"When I returned from college, coming back to Danville, how exciting the Balloon Classic was," said Rep. Chad Hays, who is a Republican in the 104th District.

It's been 15 years since the last Classic, and even longer since pilots were able to get the baskets off the ground. But a new event will bring the balloons back. It will be based at the airport, but organizers say people across the county will be able to enjoy it.

"We wanted to take the balloons out to Vermilion County, not have them just be here, and truly make it for everybody," said Pat O'Shaughnessy, who is one of the event's co-chairs. "So in addition to the events at the airport on Friday and Saturday, Balloons Over Vermilion will be sponsoring events all across the county in the month prior to the event."

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says money trouble let the air out of the balloons last time around. Now the Julius Hegler II Foundation will be helping foot the bill.

"Julius and Lois, we cannot thank you enough for providing your gift in the amount of $100,000 to provide this event with a solid financial base for years to come," said O'Shaughnessy.

"To have somebody step up and be willing to make not a one year but a five year commitment to this event, says more about the community than it does just about a hot air ballooning weekend," said Eisenhauer.

"It is all about the kids," said event co-chair Jim Anderson. "My kids cut their teeth on Balloon Classic. I hope my grandkids have occasion to cut their teeth on this one as well."

Fourth graders from Bismarck-Henning will add a fresh perspective by helping with marketing and planning. And organizers say it's an opportunity to bring their generation together with the next.

"We have the opportunity to use this event to work with both current and future community leaders and to again experience the wonder and amazement which hot air balloons bring out in each of us," said Anderson.

The event is set for July 15 and 16. Admission and parking prices haven't been set yet, but organizers say they'll be affordable for families. To find out more about it, click here.


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