Hot air balloons have been a mainstay of the Vernon Winter Carnival for years, but in 2020, for the first time in over two decades, the balloons won’t be taking to the sky.
“It’s really disappointing,” said balloon pilot and outgoing association vice-president Evan Erickson.
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“We were hoping to be able to continue it. It’s been a bit of a decline lately with sponsorship and stuff but we’d tried to give it a go and just didn’t have the financial support.”
The cancellation has also disappointed carnival organizers.
“You look up in the air, you see the hot air balloons and we know that carnival has started so it is going to be sad for us that this is the first year that it is not going to happen,” said carnival chair Deb White.
Erickson was registered to take part in this year’s now-cancelled festival as a pilot.
He got into the sport after following the annual balloon flights in Vernon as a child.
“My parents just thought it would be fun to chase the balloons around, so I grew up doing that,” Erikson recalled.
“When I got old enough, I decided that I wanted to be a pilot. I actually did my first flight at the balloon event.”
Erikson said it’s been a special and exciting experience to realize his childhood dream of flying the big balloons.
He’s hopeful the association will be able to bring back his hometown festival next year.
“Obviously sponsorship with businesses has been on the decline, so we are hoping to try and raise funds ourselves to be able to do it next year,” Erikson said.
“We hope it’s not the total end of the event.”
While the balloons won’t be flying this year, White said organizers will be investigating whether the kickoff Balloon Glow event, a night-time balloon light-up at a local park, can still go ahead.
The ballooning association said that would require funding.
Regardless of whether balloons are involved, the kickoff event will still include fireworks, food trucks and musical performances, and more than 100 other events are still on the carnival schedule.
“Carnival is not only the balloons. Carnival is many many events. This year we have over 125 events,” White said.
“I think we have four or five events that are already sold out. People are really still embracing carnival.”