Bad ideas: Remembering Cleveland's 1986 "Balloonfest"

The Eighties were a more innocent time when the people of Cleveland overlooked the ecological impact of releasing 1.5 million party balloons into the air once.

Cleveland's thrilled and joyous citizens united to inflate and release 1,500,000 helium party balloons into the sky. I cringed in horror as I watched this film and saw the ever-growing mass of balloons waiting to be released. Today, it is no surprise that all this trash being released into the sky causes many problems, but back then, we were too busy playing lawn darts and smoking filterless cigarettes.

Balloonfest '86 was an event in Cleveland, Ohio, United States held on September 27, 1986, in which the local chapter of United Way set a world record by releasing almost 1.5 million balloons.[2]

The event was intended to be a harmless fundraising publicity stunt. However, the released balloons drifted back over the city and Lake Erie and landed in the surrounding area, causing problems for traffic and a nearby airport. The event also interfered with a United States Coast Guard search for two boaters who were later found drowned.[1] In consequence, the organizers faced lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages,[1] and cost overruns put the event at a net loss.[3]


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