The words “balloonfest” and “disaster” don’t necessarily seem to go together – except in the case of the 1986 Cleveland Balloonfest, which really did end in disaster for the city. Sometimes, good intentions can end in tragedy – like the man who took a jet ski down Niagara Falls for charity and died in the process – which is exactly what happened when the United Way of Cleveland launched over a million balloons in order to raise money for the organization.
The Cleveland Balloonfest was a fundraiser that attempted to beat Disneyland’s previous record of most balloons released at once. Although the photos are beautiful, the results were disastrous for the environment and the city.
Who among us, at some time in our life, hasn’t let go of a balloon or sadly lost a balloon? Who doesn’t enjoy watching a balloon float in the air? It is a delightful experience.
For many people, sending a balloon or a number of balloons drifting gently upward to the sky is a meaningful way to signify the thoughts, memories, and prayers they have for their deceased loved ones. It tends to give people a sense of letting go and offers a sentimental way of expressing their grief.
Although popular and well loved, the act of releasing balloons is also an environmental issue. Why?
What’s the Harm in Releasing Balloons?
Balloon releases are controversial because balloons create litter and can hurt and kill wildlife. Balloons are also considered a wasteful use of helium.
Josh McCarty of the National Marine Aquarium said “We don’t want to be killjoys so we would ask the public to be sympathetic when using balloons, considering the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Cumulatively small behavior changes can make a positive impact on our planet.”
In some locations, launching a balloon release is considered illegal. In the United States, Connecticut and Florida prohibit the release of more than 10 balloons in an hour in any one location. Virginia allows up to 50 released balloons. Tennessee, Texas, California, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland are among the states that have laws regarding the release of balloons. Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, Wales, and other areas of the UK also have balloon release regulations.
How to Make Your Balloon Release Friendly to Wildlife and the Environment
If you decide to have a balloon release, consider these options.
* Try to find and use fully biodegradable balloons.
* Make sure balloons are air-filled.
* Hand-tie the balloons.
* Do not use plastic disks, attachments, or ribbon or string. Biodegradable cotton string and thin raffia ribbon can still get tangled up in trees and utility lines and harm wildlife.
Popular Balloon Release Alternatives
Virtual Balloons: Consider having a virtual balloon release online with your family and friends.
Bubbles: Make a bubble solution so you can blow bubbles and let the breeze carry them skyward. You can also make giant bubbles and frost patterns in bubbles in the winter. Blowing bubbles also requires you to exhale and breathe. This is a great way to release your feelings as well and just let go.
Floating Flowers: Float your loved one’s favorite flowers or petals down a stream.
Kites: Flying kites at funerals and in memory of the departed is a tradition that is thousands of years old. Making and flying kites is a way to honor your loved one and often brings feelings of awe, tranquility, and peace to those grieving.
Colorful kites are often described as “stained glass windows in the sky” as they swoop through the air making a humming or buzzing sound. In China, flying kites is a Chinese cultural symbol representing life and honoring the dead. Flying kites with messages tied to the kite tails in hope of communicating with the departed is also a very old tradition in Guatemala.
Pinwheels: You can purchase or make your own pinwheels. A pinwheel can be a reminder of the constancy of the eternal human spirit that resides in each of us – as the wind blows, the pinwheel becomes animated again and begins to move, thus evoking the idea of the spirit.
Butterflies: Representing changes and new beginnings, the release of butterflies can give you a visual experience of letting go. You do need to make sure you are careful in handling the butterflies and that you only release the type of butterflies that can survive in your locale.
Doves: Although beautiful in its symbolism, a release of doves is a choice that requires the use of a professional release service that uses trained doves.
For the daring try the real UP AKA cluster ballooning
Cluster Ballooning is inspirational, colorful, and it brings genuine adventure, even in our modern times. This sport reawakens a dream so many of us once had, but has grown quiet.
Please know that cluster ballooning is prohibitively expensive. Helium is invisible, yet still precious and beautiful. It is also regrettably expensive. For events or TV productions that invite the promoters of this sport to fly, sponsorship must be secured by the event, and it is expensive. There are also many commercial events that would be appropriate for a cluster balloon system -- films, documentaries, and promotional events.
Please keep in mind that this is an expensive undertaking involving licensed pilots, meteorologists, and other professionals. None of the flights are undertaken on a whim; all are prepared for, exhaustively.
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