The Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce (HRCC) will not host the 24th Annual Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship in September.
The board of directors voted Tuesday morning, June 18, to not host the festival due to several new FAA regulations restricting balloon glows and tethered rides after dusk. The recent news of the regulations also include restricting the public from being close to the balloons.
Chamber chairman Gwen Hoffmann said, “Our chamber is creating an environment of growth. Honestly, festivals restrain the progress of community development. We spend 70-90% of our time preparing for a festival for a very limited rate of return. We also have to deal with the uncertainty of the weather too.”
Board members shared their disappointment for the community’s loss during the discussion and offered their assistance if another organization wants to continue the event.
“We are disappointed there won’t be a balloon festival in Harrison, but we respect the chamber’s new vision for economic development,” Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Matt Bell said. “With the new regulations, I don’t see that we could overcome them either. The CVB’s mission is to advertise and promote tourism. We are not event specialists. We don’t look to be a good fit either, but I’ll still address it with my commissioners at our June meeting."
“In the last 90 days, the chamber has been very active promoting economic development and we have $100 million in the pipeline of new construction and industry that will also bring in more than 100 new jobs,” Bob Largent, HRCC executive director said. “We can put all of this on hold and promote a balloon festival that will severely limit access of the public for a very small profit or we can continue with our new mission to bring economic development to the region. It was a difficult decision, but the board has to look at the big picture.”