It’s Thursday, folks. And The Sherp is here for a short stroll down memory lane. This is the story of Cleveland’s unfortunate Balloonfest fiasco in 1986.

You know how Electric Forest aimed to break the world record for the largest group hug? Well, Cleveland’s aims weren’t very far off from that. The city decided they wanted to break the world record of launching the most balloons at once.


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As innocent as their ambition sounds – and it was, for the most part – it also created chaos in the city. Non-profit organization United Way of Cleveland was behind the fundraiser, which seemed to go off without a hitch at first. Cleveland’s Public Square held hundreds of volunteers, a giant net, and placed underneath it of course, 1.5 million balloons needed to break the record.

Alas, due to the ignorance of the organizers or simply bad luck, a storm was rolling in on the city that day, which inadvertently pushed those 1.5 million balloons back into the city center. This caused simultaneous chaos in several places.

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For example, a boat that was capsized due the storm had two survivors. But choppers couldn’t get through the plethora of the balloons in the city to rescue the survivors. And after the skies cleared enough, the water surface was crowded with these balloons and the survivors weren’t visible. It also said that a horse injured himself due to the panic caused by the balloons and the city was sued and had to pay hundred dollars.

Futhermore, Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport was forced to shut down runways and divert planes to nearby cities, causing more imbalance and chaos.

On the bright, or rather, slightly luminous side, Cleveland did achieve their world record.


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