Picture this: It's a warm August evening. As the sun's rays fade, you're soon surrounded by glowing hot air balloons. Now imagine this taking place right here in Lake County.
The Village of Grayslake is planning to host its first-ever hot air balloon festival, Color Aloft!, on Aug. 24 in Central Park. The event is set to feature six balloons, along with live entertainment and a few food vendors.
"Our goal is to try to build community spirit, to make it a memorable event," said Grayslake Trustee Bruce Bassett.
The hot air balloon festival idea came about almost as a joke, Bassett explained. He was chatting with recently-retired resident Pat Klemens at Emil's in Grayslake one day and "I said, 'We should put you to work, maybe get a new event together. Maybe a hot air balloon festival."
Bassett said he threw that idea out there just as an example of what they could do "without really expecting it would be that, in any definitive way."
But during their conversation, Bassett learned that Klemens used to be a balloonist.
"From that point, things just kind of fell into place," Bassett said. They were able to pencil in a festival date on the Balloon Federation of America calendar thanks to a cancellation by another organization that had been planning to hold a similar event.
"And it turns out that not only is Pat an experienced balloonist, but he's also flown around Grayslake," Bassett said. Klemens, he said, has insight into what balloonists can expect in the air here.
Bassett and Klemens plan to get six balloonists to commit to participating in Grayslake's inaugural event.
"We just want to start small," said Bassett. "We want to do it well enough so the balloonists will want to come back."
The festival will feature a fox-and-hounds event, which involves sending up a balloon, giving it a head start to reach a landing spot, and then sending the other balloons (the hounds) up to find the first balloon.
The balloons will return to Central Park and then, after dark, they'll light up their burners so the balloons are illuminated from the inside, said Bassett.
The event will be free to the public, Bassett said. The Grayslake Village Board, he said, agreed to spend $5,000 to cover event-related costs. For example, the village will provide the propane for the balloonists, along with meals and lodging, Bassett said.
He added that there will be sponsorship opportunities for local businesses and organizations, though many of these details are still being worked out.
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