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County leaders seek to cut Balloon Fest launch, event organizer objects

QUEENSBURY Citing the need for efficiency at Warren Countys airport, county leaders voted Tuesday to eliminate the final launch of the Adirondack Balloon Festival a move that festival organizer Walt Grishkot said could hamper the annual events success. The Warren County Supervisors Airport Committee voted unanimously to bar Sunday afternoon balloon launches at the Floyd Bennett Airport, where the festival is traditionally hosted on Saturday and Sunday of the four-day event. Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Grishkot said he was unaware of the decision, and said hed be meeting soon with the festivals board of directors to discuss a course of action. This would really hurt the festival, he said. It could discourage many visitors who drive many miles up here to experience the festival for a day. Supervisors said they intend to shut down the final launch because it has been difficult for airport employees to prepare the runways for routine commercial air traffic which must resume on Monday mornings after the event. With a late afternoon launch as is necessary for ballooning due to calmer prevailing winds, such work has to be accomplished in the dark, Lake George Town Supervisor Louis Tessier said after Tuesdays vote. Our guys have been working long hours all weekend, and theyve got to sweep down runways and taxiways in the dark, he said. Theres not that many spectators late Sunday afternoon anyway. In hosting the Adirondack Balloon Festival, county government pays about $30,000 over the festival weekend toward overtime for its employees, according to county Superintendent of Public Works Fred Lamy. But Grishkot said that a full slate of Sunday launches was vital to the festival, particularly to retain the many families who traditionally take a Sunday day-trip to participate. Will families drive long distances just so they can see a 6 a.m. launch and nothing afterward? he asked. This would cut our attendance. The superisors decision is subject to ratification by the full county board of supervisors, which meets March 21. Grishkot said some mailings and other publicity materials had already been circulated for the year, promising Sunday afternoon launches for the 36th annual event. Scheduled for Sept. 18 through 21 this year, the Adirondack Balloon Festival is one of the oldest and most family-friendly festivals of its type in the nation, Grishkot said. The festival gives Warren County receives national exposure, annually attracting 50,000 or so visitors, he added.

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