WARREN COUNTY — The Adirondack Balloon Festival, which historically draws thousands of people to the Warren County Airport, won’t happen in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Festival organizers announced Wednesday that the festival scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 20 was being canceled.
“This is an unprecedented decision for us, and one we did not take lightly,” said Mark Donahue, board president.
The decision was reached after discussions with local officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, he said. State guidelines for re-opening the economy include a ban on mass gatherings and regional attractions until well into the recovery, and the balloon festival is among the entire region’s biggest draws in September, as the region transitions from summer to fall foliage season.
It is the latest cancellation among many across the southern Adirondacks, an area which is heavily dependent on tourism. With concerts and fireworks displays canceled and Saratoga Race Course not expected to allow fans, businesses in Lake George and elsewhere expect their activity to be significantly down this year.
“The most important part in planning an event of this magnitude is safety. Safety is not only for our balloon pilots, but also includes our spectators, law enforcement, public works, fire and rescue staff, vendors, volunteers, musical acts and our landowners in the region,” Donahue said.
“We have a responsibility to make sure social distancing occurs, and we do not feel we could make that happen with tens of thousands of people attending our event,” he said. The board was also concerned about asking struggling businesses to provide sponsorships, he said.
Donahue predicts the popular event will return in 2021. The next Adirondack Balloon Festival is currently slated for Thursday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.