Michigan Challenge Balloonfest
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The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest is an annual hot air balloon festival established in 1984 and held in Howell, Michigan during the last weekend of June. The event draws crowds from all over Michigan and its surrounding states with attendance usually topping 100,000 over the three-day weekend. The festival is hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, and Balloonfest Director Michelle Tokan.
The festival starts each year on Friday afternoon with the opening of the carnival. Being right on Grand River, the lights make a spectacle for anyone driving through the downtown area every night. Friday night also features a fireworks display, as of the 2009 festival, sponsored by MediLodge of Howell. The Arts Festival held next to the Howell High School main campus goes on for the entire weekend as long as the Balloonfest is running and attracts vendors selling anything from crafts to hand-painted artwork. Saturday morning the day starts early with the balloon fly-in. In downtown Howell, the Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital kids day, held on the lawn of the historical Howell Courthouse, features demonstrations such as karate and dancing. One of the favorite events of the festival is held late on Saturday night each year, the balloon night glow. After the evening launch, the pilots all come back to the launch field and re-inflate their balloons, then led by a countdown, they all light their torches together and the crowd is treated to all the balloons glowing together on the field.
There are several mass balloon launches scheduled each year. Many years there are some canceled due to inclement weather such as rain or heavy wind. On Friday night the balloons all launch from the Howell High School Freshman Campus main launch field. On Saturday morning, the pilots have to fly back in to the same field and try to drop a marker onto a large target that has been placed where they would normally take off. That evening holds another mass launch followed by the Balloon Glow. Sunday morning holds an early mass launch which many Howell natives enjoy waking up to.
The sponsor list changes up every year. The main sponsor for 2010 was PNC Bank. Other sponsors include Waste Management, Inc, who provide all sanitation services for the weekend, MediLodge of Howell who sponsors the fireworks and hosts the VIP party for pilots and sponsors, PepsiCo as the beverage sponsor, and Howell Public Schools, Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, and Citizens Insurance are also major contributors.
Pilot Roster 2013
|Tom Roush||Git-R-Done||Livingston Antique Outlet|
|Jason Gaines||Cheaper than a Wife||Your Peace of Mind|
|Jerry Stephan||Jedami II||MacDonald's Funeral Home|
|Bill Sterner||God's Promise||Dr. Yanga|
|Tim Midura||Kismet 2||The UPS Store|
|Gordon Boring||Boynton Critters||Kensington Inn|
|Ted Gauthier||Andy||Bella's Market|
|Al Smith||Northern Lights||Best Western of Howell|
|Phil Glebe||Airwaves One||WHMI 93.5 FM|
|Don Wertman II||Ocean Fantasy||Chem-Trend LP|
|Larry Coan||Superfluous||Action Associates|
|Frank Campanale||Carousel||Howell Public Schools|
|Chuck Walz||Lucky Trails||First Impression Printing & Marketing|
|Ron Centers||PNC Ambassador||PNC|
|Phil Clinger||Independence||Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau|
|Ralph Payne||Candy Swirl||WLNS TV6|
|Al Warren||Junior||WSC Academy|
|Andy Baird||Can-Be-Yours-II||ITC Holdings|
|Paul Petrehn||King Me||Zingermans|
|Sarah Johnson||Mardi||Advanced Metal Alloys|
|Brian Prokuda||Sunrise||Cleary University|
|Ken Myer||R-2||A&L Parts Plus|
|Jeff Pestun||Special Purpose||Crossroads Apostolic Church|
|Matt Neimi||Fast Track||Asahi Kasei Plastics North America|
|Joey Gauthier||Joseph's Coat||Jimmy John's|
|Denny McGuire||Kaleidoscope||Moe’s BarBar Shop|
|Jim Lykins||Boo!||Livingston Business Forms|
|Rick Kerber||Michigan Cat||Michigan CAT|
|Wes Dickerson||Fore||Oceola Township|
|Ron Groce||Primary Gold||Livingston County Daily Press & Argus|
|Jim Birk||Who Cares||Jonna's Market|
|Marty Gauthier||T Baby||Wade Shows|
|Dennis Hall||Perfect Calm||Roy's Autoworks|
|Dave Mohr||Rainbow Twist||Homewood Suites by Hilton|
|Steve King||Blown Away||VG's Food Center|
|Doug Hill||Pixely||Bob and Sue Henshaw|
- Maryellen Cicione, Demand Media. "Balloon Festivals in Michigan". Travel Tips - USA Today.
- [dead link]
- "Welcome to City of Howell, MI" (PDF). cityofhowell.org.
- "Annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest arrives in Howell this weekend". MLive.com.