Off to Oz! The Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival Aims to Mesmerize
Sixteen hot-air balloons and more than 50 large-scale kites—including the largest kite in the world which just happens to be an American flag—will fly over Grants Pass the first weekend in June at the second annual Balloon and Kite Festival.
The sky will explode with color at the balloon launch at dawn Friday through Sunday, and in addition to tethered balloon rides, kite performance shows featuring the MegaFlag will take place on Saturday and Sunday, along with a “balloon glow” Saturday night.
Balloon and kite pilots come from all over the Pacific Northwest for this event, founder Caleb LaPlante said.
“My favorite thing about the event is that balloons and kites are uplifting and inspiring,” he adds. “Like in the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard takes off with Dorothy at the end, the whole land of Oz is mesmerized by the magic of them lifting off in a balloon.”
Funds from the event are donated to local organizations—Every Child, CASA and Safe Families. LaPlante said the event costs roughly $40,000 not including the generous donations from sponsors, and this year they are hoping to raise about $5,000 to $10,000 to donate to the non-profits. He said with each year, the popularity increases and they are able to raise more money. This year they’re expecting about 8,000 attendees.
Flying the largest flag in the world costs $5,000 alone, and requires transporting the only other trained individual from North Carolina. The original owner, from Oregon, no longer flies the kite. LaPlante said it weighs 400 pounds and is 10,000 square feet in length.
LaPlante said the idea came from his neighbor, Elvin Foster, who was an avid hot-air balloonist, but was terribly injured during an accident, causing him to become blind. LaPlante said he wanted to support the non-profits, and after getting to know his neighbor’s passion, was inspired to create the event.
“I wanted to do something as a community-wide event to help focus the public’s attention on these beneficiaries,” LaPlante said. “In short, they focus heavily on providing caring, stable adults to serve in the lives of homeless and foster kids.”
A kid-friendly activity area will be open, and a special field is reserved for the public to fly their kites, so bring the kids too.
LaPlante stressed that the entire event is weather dependent. Last year’s event saw perfect weather and they’re hoping for the same this year.
He also encourages volunteers to sign up. He said they’re hoping to have about 200 volunteers, and are only at half that number currently. Volunteers receive a free t-shirt, a meal and are entered into a raffle for a free hot-air balloon ride.
Balloon rides will be offered at a discounted $200, with only a few spots left. Reservations need to be made prior to the event. Live music and food vendors will also be present. Check out gpballoonfest.com for the full schedule and information.
Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival
June 1 – 3
Lower River Road across from Lathrop Park, Grants Pass
Admission, free. Parking, $7