Not Just Full of Hot Air: The Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival Benefits Local Foster and Homeless Children
Banding together with a 75-year-old Smokey the Bear in balloon form, the Grants Pass Rotary Club are taking flight for kids in need at the annual Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival May 31 to June 2.
Kicking off the summer season of celebrations, Smokey’s promotion of forest fire prevention will complement the Festival’s prime directive of “taking serious aim at eliminating the deficit of kids without homes,” says Caleb LaPlante, event organizer for the Rotary Club.
He explains how he found his inspiration for the festival after hearing Ashton Kutcher’s advice to a Rotary club convention, “If you want to go back to your community and do anything, work with the most vulnerable populations, which are foster and homeless kids.” LaPlante and his team “were all ready. I had already turned the corner and created the festival for that purpose because of where I come from with trafficking awareness.”
Since 2011, LaPlante has been “working pretty diligently on raising awareness for sex trafficking in rural communities, doing pretty large scale projects including media and lobbying campaigns with U.S. Senators and teaching programs in schools.”
It’s a subject “ten years ago, nobody was talking about. I wouldn’t say people understand the issue, but they believe that it is an issue seemingly in the last three or four years. It’s a good time to be vocal and loud and connect the dots for people,” continues LaPlante, who understands such a serious issue “is surprising to most people. But it’s happening in our communities and much more prevalent than we think.” The event will specifically benefit Every Child, Safe Families and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
Happening on a 200-acre working farm, the Josephine County Farm Bureau cosponsored the event this year as “there’s crops everywhere, all over the property; corn, alfalfa, garlic. So the Farm Bureau was really interested in promoting the value of agriculture and encouraging people to get involved in farming—young people especially,” explains LaPlante.
They’ll be all sorts of amazing activities for children: Monster Truck Rides, Face Painting, Kite Making, Bounce House, Hoop Shoot Challenge, Skee Ball, Dragon Obstacle Course, Hay-Bale Castle and a Cow Train!
Grace Howell, Volunteer Balloon Crew Coordinator, brims with joy, “It’s all about the kids. They have so much fun. The excitement, the energy. The night glow and the dawn launches are phenomenal, but it’s really about the people.”
The world’s largest kite, The Great American Flag, will sail overhead with RC Airplane shows zipping around below. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday with food vendors, public kite flying and kids’ activities all weekend.
The magical night glow spectacle lights up at 9:15 pm on Friday and Saturday. Smokey the Bear and 20 other propane-piloted balloons will captivate the crowd as they drift up into the steamy summer sky.
Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival
Friday, May 31 – Sunday, June 2
Off Lower River Road, 1.7 miles past Lincoln Road in Grants Pass
$5, Friday and Sunday. $10, Saturday.