BALLOONFEST 1986: THE SPECTACLE THAT BECAME A DEBACLE
On Saturday, Sept. 27, 1986, close to 1.5 million balloons boiled up from Cleveland’s Public Square, engulfing Terminal Tower and setting a world record. In the hours and days and weeks that followed, the United Way executives who had engineered the feat were reminded of the basic law of gravity: What goes up must come down…
Down, in this case, on Burke Lakefront Airport, shutting down a runway there. Down on a pasture in Medina County, spooking a horse, whose owner would sue and later settle with the charity. Down on Lake Erie, blanketing the water just as a Coast Guard helicopter arrived to search for two missing boaters - who would later be found, drowned; the wife of one of them also sued, and also settled. Down weeks later on the shores of the lake - the northern shores, where Ontario residents found their beaches littered with thousands of deflated balloons.
1.5 million balloons (give or take) were held in netting awaiting release
Ten or 15 minutes ahead of schedule, with rain clouds threatening, the net's anchors were released
The balloons soared off into a darkening sky, thrilling the crowd gathered in Cleveland's Public Square
Thousands of balloons began dropping into Lake Erie and around downtown Cleveland