LEWISTON — City officials said Thursday that they plan to hold a three-day “L/A Balloon Festival” in mid-August that will include hot air balloons, food and other vendors, and some “new elements to make it enticing.”

“It’s taking off,” Angelynne Amores, Lewiston’s director of marketing and communications, said.

Nate Libby, Lewiston’s assistant economic development director, said officials from many city departments met Thursday morning with a couple of experienced volunteers and together they agreed that the annual balloon festival ought to go on as planned despite its cancellation by the Great Falls Balloon Festival organizers.

The festival will take place from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 16-18, Libby said.

“We want to make it an event that folks will remember,” he said.

After initially refusing to have anything to do with the municipal bid to lend a hand with the festival, the organizing board agreed Thursday to “fully support the city’s decision to move forward with their own event.”

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“We’ve agreed that the show should go on, even if through a different avenue,” the directors said in a news release posted early Thursday on the organization’s Facebook page.

It said the board has provided the city with a list of pilots, sponsorships that had been secured, vendors who had planned to participate and “all other festival information.”

Balloons prepare to take flight during the 2022 Great Falls Balloon Festival at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file

The directors also said they would “relinquish any equipment” the festival owns to the city, including a souvenir booth, information booth “and our trailer.”

But, they said, the Great Falls Balloon Festival would reserve the right to its name, logos, social media and website domain.

The city, which plans to work closely with Auburn, said it would rename the festival but carry on the 30-year tradition under a new banner this year.

Libby said Mel Hamlyn, a former longtime board president and treasurer for the festival’s nonprofit who stepped away in 2019, has agreed to work as a volunteer with the city’s efforts. She brings with her extensive experience and a long list of contacts, he said.

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Also helping out as a volunteer, he said, is Cathy McDonald, organizer of the annual Liberty Festival.

Libby said the pair, along with city’s department heads, will provide a strong team that can make the event happen successfully.

“We’ve got quite a crew,” the former state senator from Lewiston said.

The city plans to get a new website up and running soon that will allow people to volunteer to help, sign up for balloon rides and become vendors.

Amores said it is especially important in the wake of the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting to hang on to an important tradition.

“We’re always looking for events that bring the community together,” she said, and the balloon festival has done that for almost three decades. It is also a “signature event” for the city, Amores said.

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Libby said the city tried three times to meet with festival organizers but never got the chance. Officials were pleased that the festival board reconsidered its position and agreed to help out with the effort.

“We greatly appreciate the relationships we have built over the last 29 years within the cities, nonprofits, vendors, sponsors and our amazing community,” a news release issued early Thursday from the festival board said.

“We continue to stand by our mission to support and encourage the nonprofit fundraising efforts within our community” while encouraging people to visit Lewiston and Auburn, it said.

The directors said they “feel very strongly” their decision to postpone the 30th anniversary festival made sense given the challenges they faced in terms of sponsorships, staffing, vendors, safety and more.

“We felt that the 30th should be something special and planned to bring new surprises and delight to the communities,” they said.

“We were hopeful that sponsorships would start coming in and that we could then focus on some of the other concerns,” the directors said in the statement based on an emergency meeting late Tuesday.

“With critical deadlines approaching and contracts needing to be signed, we decided the best course of action — rather than hope we would be able to pay vendors, pilots, etc. — was, to the betterment of the festival, to postpone until 2025,” they said.

With the extra time, they said, they aimed to renew the organization and “bring an epic 30th festival celebration.”

“It was our hope that the city of Lewiston would understand and respect our decision,” they said.

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