Financial Challenges Ground Balloon & Sky Fest
NEW SMYRNA BEACH – After seven successful years, financial challenges have grounded the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest, causing the cancellation of the 2016 event scheduled for April 1-3.
The Board of Directors of the Balloon& Sky Fest Foundation, organizers and operators of the event, voted Monday at its monthly meeting to call a halt to the popular festival, which annually featured night and day air shows, hot-air balloons, live entertainment, a carnival, and many other attractions, and focused on inspiring young people. The Foundation’s charities each year included the Boys & Girls Clubs and other area youth organizations.
“This was a very emotional decision,” said Board Chairman Dr. Arlen Stauffer, one of the founders of the event. “There is a very dedicated group of people who poured their hearts and souls into Sky Fest, and it’s painful for it to end this way.” Stauffer said the event has perennially struggled to find enough sponsors and donors to make it financially sustainable, and the Board of Directors finally decided that it would be unwise to continue into next year, as that would create a significant risk of being unable to fulfill the obligations to the 2016 performers, vendors, and suppliers.
“By suspending Balloon & Sky Fest now, we are able to exit without owing any person, business, or organization any money,” Stauffer added. “That is very important to us.”
The Board’s decision to cancel the event comes less than two weeks after the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority Board of Directors proposed to cut the event’s funding for out-of-county advertising in half, from $30,000 in 2015 to $15,000 for 2016. “The decision by the SVAA board was a huge blow to us….kind of a final straw,” Stauffer said. “Our annual patron surveys consistently showed that 40% of attendees came from outside Volusia County, and we needed to continue to attract those people for Sky Fest to have the best chance to survive.”
Theresa Perry, Executive Director of the Foundation, said the SVAA decision was just the latest of several threats to the long-term future of Sky Fest. She said the search for sponsors and donors was a constant challenge. “Balloon & Sky Fest was a huge event attracting national attention, but it was held in a small town. As the event grew, it became harder and harder to find sufficient regional and national sponsorship to keep it going.”
Perry said her biggest disappointment is for the volunteer Sky Fest Committee that spent countless hours each year organizing the event, and for the local community that supported the festival. “We had fantastic local support,” she said. “The City of New Smyrna Beach – local leaders, businesses, the public – all loved this event, and Airport Manager Rhonda Walker was fantastic. But the fact of the matter is that it just could not continue financially without more regional and national support.”
The New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest began on a Friday night in 2009 when ten hot-air balloons gathered at the city airport and drew a large crowd. During the next six years the event grew to be one of the largest annual festivals in East Central Florida.
New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest
April 1-3, 2016
Balloon & Sky Fest Foundation, Inc.
1982 State Road 44, Suite 324
New Smyrna Beach, FL