Football Fest to lift off

Stark campus to launch 75 balloons into the air

Balloons fill the sky during last year’s Balloon Classic Invitational. PHOTO COURTESY OF Cynthia Williams

Credit: DKS Editors

The Stark campus will kick off the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival at 4 p.m. Friday with the Jackson-Belden Food Fest and at 5:30 p.m. with the Balloon Classic Invitational.

“We have a couple of new special shape balloons this year, like Gordo – a monkey head,” said Festival Director Joanne Murray.

This year, the event has more than 75 sport, commercial and special-shape hot air balloons including a piggy bank and a football.

Balloon pilots compete for a team prize valued at $19,000 and participate in the Pole Grab to win $3,000. They maneuver their balloons over a pole erected on the launch field and attempt to grab the cash from the top of the pole.

There will also be a “Night Glow” at 9:45 p.m. Friday, where pilots will illuminate their balloon envelopes while tethered at the launch field.

“It’s incredible when you’re standing on the hill and you look down and see all of the balloons being released,” said Ruthanne Wilkof, president of Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce.

This year the Food Fest features Cinemation Theater, where attendees can watch three-minute films. It costs $1 for children and $2 for adults. Making its second appearance is the speed pitch machine, which allows guests to throw baseballs for prizes.

“The speed pitching was a huge hit last year among all ages,” Wilkof said.

Food Fest hours are Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with a fireworks display at 10 p.m. Saturday.

The first Balloon Classics were held at Canton’s Weis Park from 1985 until 1991. It was moved to the Stark campus because more space was needed to accommodate more balloons and growing crowds.

The opportunity for the Stark campus to host this event provides great visibility for the campus, said Matt Frericks, director of business services for the Stark campus.

“First and foremost, we are just happy to contribute to the community by providing space for this event,” he said. “But we also see how this involvement has a positive impact on Kent State as a system. If we can get people on the campus, and they see how nice the campus is, maybe they will choose to attend the school as a student.”

The Stark campus is sponsoring a sport balloon this year with the Stark campus logo displayed on it. Frericks said this will be a great way to get the campus name out in the public.

“While it’s not our event, our staff works very hard during this event – our security staff, our professional development staff and grounds crew staff,” Frericks said. “It is absolutely a team effort to make our part of this event successful.”

Murray said the event has stayed similar year-to-year because the festival seems to have developed a successful format, providing something for everyone.

“Students will enjoy the entire event,” Murray said.

There is no admission charge and parking is $5 per vehicle beginning at 3 p.m.

If students want to join the festival committee, they can contact Event Manager Chris Gumpp in September at the Hall of Fame Web site.

“It’s fun to see young and old alike coming out,” Wilkof said. “They will all love it.”

Contact entertainment reporter Brindi Bays at [email protected] and regional campuses reporter Becky Smith at [email protected].