LEWISTON — For the first time in the 16-year history of the Great Falls Balloon Festival, those attending will be asked to donate money to ensure it breaks even.

Volunteers wearing safety vests and holding canisters will take donations at the gates of the Simard/Payne Memorial Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Festival treasurer Mell Hamlyn said that last year the festival was $7,000 over budget; the year before that, it was $4,000 over budget. However, there isn’t a deficit because organizers have used surplus funds.

To avoid dipping into surplus year after year, asking nonprofits to pay more or charging the public to attend, organizers “thought maybe the public could help out,” Hamlyn said.

The festival itself is not at risk, Hamlyn said. “We could sustain that loss for a couple of years. If this doesn’t work out, we’ll have to look elsewhere.”

Money from corporate sponsors has not kept pace with costs, Hamlyn said. The festival has new sponsors this year, but it has also lost major ones. Of this year’s $120,000 budget, $42,000 is from corporate sponsors. That’s down from $62,000 four years ago, she said.

“We did cut corners this year,” she said. One was eliminating fireworks on Friday night.

The first $3,000 in donations from the public this year will go directly to support the Balloon Festival. After that, the money will be split among the 30-plus nonprofit organizations that sell food at the festival, and the festival itself.

The Lewiston Firefighters union will ask for donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association outside the gate, Hamlyn said.

The Great Falls Balloon Festival is the largest of its kind in New England. Police estimate 100,000 people have attended over the three days.

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There’s more online!

Visit sunjournal.com/balloonfestival to share your own photos, read stories and watch video from the weekend’s festvities.

Go and do:

What:
17th annual Great Falls Balloon Festival

Where:
Simard/Payne Memorial Park, near Bates Mill complex, Lewiston

When:
All day Friday, Saturday and Sunday; balloon liftoff 6 a.m., 6 p.m.

How much?
Free. Donations accepted

For more information: http://www.greatfallsballoonfestival.org/


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