QUEENSBURY ♦ The generosity of Adirondack Balloon Festival attendees will help Warren County avoid a debt from hosting the event at the county airport.
This year’s festival was the first where the county had asked festival organizers to solicit donations to defray the costs of holding the event at Warren County airport.
The response was outstanding, with more than $14,000 collected, airport Manager Ross Dubarry said.
The county had agreed to give 10 percent to volunteer groups that collected the money. Realty USA of Queensbury had staff collect donations, and the company donated its portion to the Family Services Association. VFW Post 6196 of Queeensbury also had members manning collection jars.
The county will receive more than $12,000 from the donations, and $15 “VIP” parking permits that were sold brought in another $3,045. The permits allowed holders to park directly in front of the airport terminal.
“All in all, it was very successful,” county Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said.
That money will cut into the $21,000 or so annual budget gap the county sees from paying its staff overtime to work at the event.
Dubarry and balloon festival organizer Mark Donahue said they heard few complaints about being solicited for donations, or about the brief delays that occurred as cars stopped as they pulled into the airport.
However, Donahue said some people believed that the proceeds were going to the festival, when they are not. There is no admission fee to the event, and the late founder Walt Grishkot had always insisted the event be free of charge.
“The public thinks we’re seeing a penny of it, when we’re not,” he said.
Donahue said he believed the county could have sold more parking permits if they were easier to acquire. Most people had to drive to the county Department of Public Works building in Warrensburg to get them, and he said he hoped the county could offer them earlier and in a more convenient location.
Donahue said he would also like to see the county staff its tourism kiosk at the airport, because many who visited it were going to the festival’s souvenir tent seeking tourism information that festival staff couldn’t answer.
The festival drew record crowds to Friday night’s launch, and Donahue said the exodus from the airport went well when the Saturday afternoon launch was canceled amid bad thunderstorms.
“We got 25,000 to 30,000 people out of there quickly. It seemed to work pretty well,” he said.