CENTRALIA, IL. — Organizers of Centralia Balloon Fest have reworked their event to follow guidelines and regulations for social distancing and the “Restore Illinois” plan.
After receiving many questions and hearing rumors of cancelation, the Greater Centralia Chamber of Commerce addresses concerns by acknowledging the seriousness of the crisis and that the event will look very different this year.
“Balloon Fest is a very successful event, because it brings an average of 30,000 people together in Centralia. For reasons of safety and protocols set by Governor Pritzker, we will look to adapt the event this year to ensure the safety of anyone attending including our sponsors and our volunteers,” says Marcus Holland, executive director.
“There are two things that we want to focus on. One, we give people something to look forward to by having hot air balloons in Centralia on August 21 to 23. Two, we work together as a community to promote local businesses, restaurants, and retail stores.”
This event normally has activities throughout the three-day festival, but festivals are not allowed until Phase 5 of the “Restore Illinois” plan. With such uncertainty surrounding the procedures to reopen our communities, the event organizers are ensuring a plan that is more flexible and adaptive.
“At this time in the year, we would be focused on securing all of the sponsors and entertainment for the weekend. Then, we print brochures and start marketing the schedule of events. Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns, so we are paring down much of the event to stay open,” says Holland.
“It is similar to what the retailers, restaurants, and manufacturers are doing to lower capacity and increase distance between individuals. This is not an easy decision, but we still feel Balloon Fest is important for the community and the businesses.”
One thing is certain, the coronavirus has impacted every facet of life. It is a lethal disease that is highly contagious. Families have lost loved ones. Healthcare workers and individuals who are recovering from the virus say that it is unlike any other virus that they have seen. Businesses have closed - some temporary, others permanently - and there are more than 1 million people in Illinois who are seeking unemployment.
“Balloon Fest can be useful to bring visitors from surrounding communities to Centralia to see what we have to offer. They can visit our parks, shop in our stores, and eat at our restaurants. We can give families something to do and we shift the focus to something positive after the stay-at-home order and other event cancelations.”
Organizers are looking at changing the event to focus on seeing hot air balloons in the sky and watching hot air balloons from the comfort of vehicles.
“We will know more as we start to reopen Centralia. The stay-at-home order will be lifted soon, businesses will start reopening, and smaller events will continue. We are still three months out, and we know a lot can change or be decided before August 21,” says Holland.
The mission of the Greater Centralia Chamber of Commerce is to be a recognized leader for their members and community and to stimulate a healthy business climate through programs and services that strengthen the community as well as directly benefit their members and enhance business success. This is the 31st year for Centralia Balloon Fest. More information about the chamber of commerce or balloon fest can be found at www.centraliachamber.com.