Hot air balloons inflate at sunrise Aug. 19, 2023, on a field at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston during the Great Falls Balloon Festival. The festival board of directors Monday rejected Lewiston officials’ proposal to help revive the festival after it was canceled for this year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The city of Lewiston received a rejection letter Monday from the Great Falls Balloon Festival board of directors for a proposal to help revive the festival.

Deb Leonard, the board of directors interim president, said the board held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the city’s proposal.

“The board voted unanimously to reject the proposal as written for the 2024 festival,” Leonard said. The board sent its rejection letter to the city Monday.

Follow-up questions to the board, asking if it could elaborate on the proposal’s shortcomings, were not answered by early Tuesday evening.

Representatives from City Hall were not available for comment Tuesday evening.

The popular three-day event is held every third week of August and, for the past several years, in Lewiston’s Simard-Payne Memorial Park. It was launched in 1992 as a beacon to drive business to Lewiston and Auburn and as a fundraising opportunity for local nonprofits.


The festival offered live music and entertainment, family activities, food, beverages and vendors. Nonprofits typically raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds and overall economic impact to the Twin Cities is estimated to top $2 million. Yearly attendance is estimated to be about 100,000.

The board of directors announced the cancellation May 22 citing “logistical issues, safety concerns, and other unexpected factors beyond our control.” The same evening, city leaders put a proposal together to partner with festival organizers.

Leonard said Sunday that the gaps to be filled to pull off the festival are considerable and include a lack of sponsorships, committed volunteers, issues securing crowd control, security and portable toilets.

“Realistically, we don’t know what the specific ‘gaps’ are until we get closer to the event and start securing and confirming,” Leonard said Sunday.

Little is known about the proposal’s finer details, according to Sun Journal reports. Nate Libby, Lewiston’s assistant director of economic development, said Sunday that the offer contained planning, logistics and administrative functions in efforts to “figure this year out” and put the festival in the “best possible position” for next year.

The festival returned in 2022 after two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and featured 14 balloons. Last year it drew 25 balloons. This year’s festival would be its 30th anniversary.

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