Michigan Challenge Balloonfest

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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.[1] 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.[2]

Annual attractions[edit]

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.[3] 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.

Annual launches[edit]

There are several mass balloon launches scheduled each year.[4] 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[edit]

Pilot Balloon Name Sponsor
Tom Roush Git-R-Done Livingston Antique Outlet
Shawn Raya Sullair Sullair
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
Jody Leatherberry Re/max Re/max
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
Mark Enszer Celebration Jockey
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


  1. ^ Maryellen Cicione, Demand Media. "Balloon Festivals in Michigan". Travel Tips - USA Today.
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Welcome to City of Howell, MI" (PDF). cityofhowell.org.
  4. ^ "Annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest arrives in Howell this weekend". MLive.com.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°36′35″N 83°55′58″W / 42.60972°N 83.93278°W / 42.60972; -83.93278