On-the-ground preparations under way for Balloons Over Vermilion

Jennifer Bailey|Commercvial-NewsBalloons Over Vermilion volunteer Teresa Ard washes windows Wednesday on the Cloud 9 Banquet and Conference Center at the Vermilion Regional Airport in preparation for the arrival of the hot air balloon pilots and event sponsors.

DANVILLE – It’s looking like some great weather for Balloons Over Vermilion this weekend and co-chair Jim Anderson said attendees may want to bring an umbrella, not for rain, but to shield the sun.

Anderson said there will be some cooling tents, in addition to other some shady spots, but the tents might be pretty crowded.

Balloons Over Vermilion will welcome attendees and the main attraction, the hot air balloons, for its fourth year this weekend at the Vermilion Regional Airport.

Tonight’s kick-off Splash-N-Dash Party will have gates open at 4:30 p.m. at the Danville Boat Club, 15750 Boat Club Road, Danville. Tickets are $5 for adults and children age 10 and under are free. There will be 10 hot air balloons competing over the lake to hit a target, in addition to live music with Steve Rodman, and a children’s fun zone. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

The two-day Balloons Over Vermilion on Friday and Saturday will feature about 36 hot air balloons launching and tethering, in addition to the balloon glows.

Shuttles start at 2:30 p.m. Friday from Lowe’s and Wal-Mart with gates opening at 3 p.m. On Saturday, shuttles start at 12:30 p.m. with gates opening at 1 p.m.

The start of the event will feature a special tribute to the late Julius W. Hegeler II. Hegeler passed away July 5 at the age of 91. Balloons Over Vermilion’s title sponsor for its first five years is the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation, which has provided $100,000 each year.

“We’re going to have the tribute in conjunction with the National Anthem,” Anderson said about also having the Salute to America and T-6 flyover prior to the Parade of Pilots at 6 p.m.

“He’s not only the heart and soul of this event, he was just an extraordinarily strong partner,” Anderson said of Hegeler.

Anderson said the event is the perfect marriage of three things that were important to Hegeler — aviation, the community and the kids.

“This event is all about the kids,” Anderson said. “He taught us that kids aren’t defined by our age.”

“He truly enjoyed the event. He spent hours out here during the event …,” Anderson added.

Anderson said after Hegeler committed the seed money for this new hot air balloon event to get established and for them to be able to bring it to the community for years, “the community has wrapped its arms around us.”

Anderson said Balloons Over Vermilion is already one of the favorites of the balloon events among pilots.

“It’s just a gorgeous place for balloonists to fly,” Anderson said about Vermilion County and saying it’s not just corn and soybeans fields.

“What they really enjoy is the community has embraced the pilots,” he added. “We treat the pilots like the rock stars they are.”

Tents are going up, vendors will start arriving and other preparations are now taking place on the airport grounds.

“It’s taking shape. It’s coming up out of the ground,” Anderson said laughing.

In addition to the balloon launches, glows and laser light shows, there will be tethered rides, the kids zone, inflatables, music and food and other vendors.

Admission is $5 per person (with children 10 and under free with each paid adult). Parking is $5 per vehicle. There is free transportation on the shuttle buses.