A line of patrons line up at the concessions at the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston on Aug. 16, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

The Great Falls Balloon Festival won’t launch this year, leaving some fundraising efforts for area charities up in the air.

When members of the newly formed balloon committee needed to find volunteers to cook at the 2019 Great Falls Balloon Festival pancake breakfast they turned to the Grant family from Grant’s Bakery in Lewiston where Rick, middle, and his three brothers and their wives agreed to volunteer to cook. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

The Lewiston-Auburn Rotary Club, which traditionally sells chicken nuggets, fries and onion rings at the three-day weekend festival in August, cleared more than $6,000 last year for local nonprofit groups, including Trinity Jubilee Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine Lewiston/Auburn, SandCastle, SeniorsPlus, and literacy efforts such as Book Reach at the Lewiston Public Library, Club President Celeste Yakawonis said Monday.

“This will have a great impact on what our Rotary group is able to do next year in our donations to the nonprofits,” she said.

Festival organizers decided last week to cancel its annual event that lures about 100,000 visitors annually to Lewiston’s Simard-Payne Memorial Park where dozens of colorful hot air balloons lift off to float over the Twin Cities.

Heeding the guidelines and timetable for reopening the state laid down last week by Gov. Janet Mills, the group determined that if the event was held, there was no guarantee they would be able to abide by the governor’s social-distancing restrictions and the mandate that out-of-state visitors quarantine for two weeks. And many of the balloons’ pilots and festival vendors come from throughout New England, Tracy Collins, president of the Great Falls Balloon Festival board of directors, said.

“In times like these, the (Great Falls Balloon Festival, must consider the health and safety of our festival-goers and their families as our top priority,” according to a statement from the organizers.

In addition to promoting tourism in central Maine, the festival’s mission is aimed at helping to raise money for area charities.

Last year, 17 charity groups, including the local Rotary, Lewiston High School Swim, Auburn Youth Football, Lewiston High School cheerleaders and Edward Little High School baseball raised roughly $56,000 through food sales at the festival, Collins said.

“This will hit these groups very hard at an already difficult time,” the organizers said. “We also understand that this pandemic has had a huge economic impact on many of our local sponsors and feel, at this time, we want to respect them by not soliciting sponsorship.”

In Lisbon, organizers of the annual Moxie Festival are weighing alternatives, said Mark Stevens, director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Robert Hamlin of Turner drives his 1963 Massey Ferguson tractor down Main Street during the Moxie Festival parade in 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“We’re looking at different different options instead of canceling,” Stevens said.

The festival has been an annual event in Lisbon since author Frank Potter held a signing for his book “The Moxie Mystique” at Frank Anicetti’s Kennebec Fruit Company store in downtown Lisbon on Route 196.

One option might be to keep the soft-drink celebration local, like it was when it started in 1982, Stevens said.

Lisbon Town Council members are expected to discuss the issue Tuesday night, he said. He hopes the town can wait until later this month to make a decision based on the shifting landscape of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“If Maine’s open, then we want to be open,” Stevens said.

The three-day festival is typically held the second weekend in July.

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