This photo shows balloons at the Hot Air Affair, a festival which ran in Van Wert between 1985 and 1998. (Photo courtesy W. Bowery)
VAN WERT - An attempt to revive the Hot Air Affair in Van Wert is in jeopardy unless the committee putting the event together comes up with more cash and more volunteers.
Ann Marshall is part of the group hoping to bring back the popular festival that ran between 1985 and 1998. However, she is finding it hard to recruit enough volunteers to organize and put on the festival.
"We've got enough people here in Van Wert that we could put this on with no problem whatsoever -- if they would just come out and help," she said. "We're trying to get different organizations in town to help us, and to help themselves. I've got probably until March, and if things don't come together we'll have to cancel. And I hate to do that. I think it is something good for Van Wert."
Another committee member, Jerry Mazur, pointed out another immediate need. "Money is the real problem. It always is," he asserted. "It's not insurmountable though. I think what we have to do is look at what we can do for no money, and if we get some money, we can go from there."
Mazur stated that with $25,000 the committee should be able to secure many of the necessities for the Hot Air Affair. Mazur knows something about beginning a successful festival, having worked to start the air shows at the Van Wert County Regional Airport a few years ago. He explained that putting on the first event is much harder to accomplish than subsequent events.
"With the air shows, it was very tough the first year to get anybody to even think about it," he recalled. "We got it done, but the second year it got easier because people could see some successes there."
Also present at Thursday night's meeting was a face from the old Hot Air Affair days, Frank Conn. A former balloon pilot, Conn remembered how the Van Wert Jaycees ran the festival in the past, getting close to 50 balloons for the event one year.
"I've heard for years people say that they sure wished the Hot Air Affair would come back. A lot of people," Conn shared. "But around this part of the country, ballooning is not near as popular as it was when we had the Hot Air Affair."
The original Van Wert Hot Air Affair was held at the airport, hosting estimated crowds as high as 25,000 people on a three-day August weekend. Several balloon launches were held along with other events in the sky and on the ground.
The relaunch of Hot Air Affair is scheduled for Sept. 7-8 at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds, although Marshall noted that events will be scheduled elsewhere around town also. A pancake and sausage breakfast is on the Saturday morning agenda at the airport to help draw crowds and funds for that facility.
An attempt to restart the Hot Air Affair in 2011 failed when funds could not be assembled and the needed volunteers did not materialize. The 2012 restart could meet the same fate if individuals and groups are not found to help out and if funds can not be raised. Marshall said there are all kinds of jobs that need to be done, including working on entertainment, programs, coordinating food vendors, parking, tickets, and many other areas.
"What we need are volunteers, sponsors, people with ideas, organizations that want to help, and school groups," she listed. Persons wishing to pitch in to bring back the Hot Air Affair are asked to contact Marshall at (419) 238-4551 or (419) 203-7476.