ROCKWALL – The City of Rockwalls Airport Committee voted 4-3 to recommend the Rockwall Municipal/Ralph M. Hall Airport to City Council as the location for the Nov. 11-12 Rockwall Balloon Festival, as requested by the event organizer, J.J. Smith, also owner/publisher of The Rockwall News.
The full Rockwall City Council will next vote at their regularly-scheduled Sept. 6 meeting whether the festival can be held at the airport.
Dissenting voters expressed concern about safety of attendees and security of airplanes, but Smith explained temporary fencing and volunteers will be used to protect planes and hangars. He assured the Committee that the Festivals balloon operations manager and professional balloon pilot, Bill Broker, says power lines north of the airport are too far away to cause problems.
For several months Smith has been working with the highly-successful, 37-year-old Plano Balloon Festival to bring a similar event to Rockwall, which typically attracts tens of thousands of people from across the DFW Metroplex to see multiple, colorful hot air balloons launch together and glow at night. Live music, a Kids Zone games/rides and vendors are also generally a part of such festivals.
Last month he and Broker met with the Committee at the airport to ask for permission to use the location. Committee members unanimously voiced their support for the event but questioned whether the airport was the best location and tabled the motion, asking Smith to see if he and Broker could find a better site.
Smith reported that they had scoured the area but been unable to find another location which met their festival criteria better than the airport. He said they have some backup locations in mind but none afford the parking, vehicle access and space needed on those dates to host an event of this nature. They dont want to change the date because it would then conflict with Thanksgiving and risk bad weather. There are already multiple other balloon festivals scheduled in other cities in September and October.
Smith said the purpose of the event is to establish a fun, family-oriented event which will: 1) attract thousands of visitors annually to Rockwall to purchase goods/services from local businesses, 2) provide Rockwall County non-profits with an opportunity to earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars by providing festival volunteers and selling food/merchandise from booths, plus 3) educate people about the sport of hot air ballooning.
Smith is currently seeking additional volunteers to serve on the non-profit Rockwall Balloon Festivals Board of Directors and organizing committees. He explained last night that he and family members established the event as a Texas non-profit corporation last month and have applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity status from the IRS, which he expects to receive before the festival begins.
Submitted by J.J. Smith
Rockwall Balloon Festival Inc.
(Also Owner/Publisher of The Rockwall News)