Happy host: Campus serves as backdrop for annual community event
65,000 in attendance at 2018 Balloon Classic and Fireworks.
As a child, Jessica Anderson chased down hot-air balloons landing in the field near her grandparents’ home.
When Anderson took to the skies during the 2018 Balloon Classic and Fireworks, she carried with her that sense of childlike wonder. She marveled at the massive “DreamShip” featuring 130 drawings from children of fallen or disabled U.S. soldiers.
“It meant a lot to me to win a ride and to take flight in a balloon with such a meaningful message,” said Anderson, food service manager at the Emporium Grille. “It also was a childhood dream to be able to ride in a hot-air balloon. We just glided over North Canton; being able to see my hometown in a whole different way gave me a new sense of pride.”
And community pride is what the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce hopes to instill during its annual event, which kicks off the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. Kent State University at Stark hosts the Balloon Classic each year on its 200-acre campus.
Andrea Hartman, event manager at the chamber, said beautiful weather contributed to a record attendance of more than 65,000.
“The Balloon Classic and Fireworks simply wouldn’t be possible without our partnership with Kent State University at Stark. Since 1991, tens of thousands of spectators each year have been able to enjoy our event from the grounds of Kent State Stark’s beautiful campus,” Hartman said. “We are so thankful for Kent State University at Stark’s commitment not only to our Enshrinement Festival, but to our entire Stark County community.”
Dean Denise Seachrist, Ph.D., said Kent State Stark is pleased to host. “As Stark County’s public university, we were happy to again welcome the community to our beautiful, 200-acre campus for one of summer’s most anticipated events,” she said. “We are pleased to provide the space necessary for the festival’s breathtaking hot-air balloons to take to the sky over this spectacular three-day event.”
Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren attended the festival Saturday, dubbing it “a beautiful night.” She watched the balloons take flight for the first time in four years after being grounded due to weather conditions.
Event Director Maury Sullivan has been involved with the Balloon Classic since its inception more than 25 years ago. First held at Canton’s Weis Park, Sullivan said the event quickly ran out of space. “We’ve been at Kent State Stark ever since,” he explained.
As balloon meister, Sullivan said some find it ironic that he has a fear of flying. “But, there’s something about flying in a balloon. You don’t have that fear sensation like leaning out of a tall building,” he said. “It’s just totally different. What I like most is the serenity, when you are up there it is like a model railroad.
“You look down on a town, I don’t care what part of town you are over, it looks beautiful.”