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Greenway Takeover wants to fly tethered hot air balloons for festival

Residents can expect to see hot air balloons floating at least 100 feet in the air next month for the Greenway Takeover. The festival, sponsored by HB Sound & Light, opens Sept. 13 and will maintain many of the attractions it featured last ye...

Gayl Haufe, a Greenway Takeover Festival volunteer, plays with 21-month-old Alijah Dowling on the opening night of the festival on the Greenway in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Gayl Haufe, a Greenway Takeover Festival volunteer, plays with 21-month-old Alijah Dowling on the opening night of the festival on the Greenway in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Residents can expect to see hot air balloons floating at least 100 feet in the air next month for the Greenway Takeover.

The festival, sponsored by HB Sound & Light, opens Sept. 13 and will maintain many of the attractions it featured last year, including live music, art, games and outdoor activities like cornhole and octoball.

This will be the event's second year and its first time offering hot air balloon rides.

Tricia Lunski said she and husband, Jamie, who are both in charge at HB Sound & Light, are hoping for good weather.

"We put in a request early," she said as she laughed.

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On a more serious note, she said the weather is a huge gamble when it comes to hot air balloons.

"They can't fly if it's windy, and they'll only fly at dusk," she said. "It's a huge risk for us. Because we have to pay no matter what."

Lunski said the hot air balloon event took a "chunk" from the HB Marketing budget, without further disclosing an amount.

Balloons will be available from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., she said, at $20 a person for anyone older than six years. Festival entrance is free.

She said the balloons are ADA compliant and tethered.

"And because we live on the flattest place on earth, you should be able to see quite a bit from 100 feet," she said.

Weather is the only risk the Lunskis say they have to overcome. City communication specialist Sharyl Simeone took care of related ordinances, including one allowing aircraft to fly above 50 feet.

"Many years ago, we would have many different places would have helicopter rides, and part of the problem was, without filing a permit or petition for an event, we may not know what's in our air space," Simeone said. "So this was put into place so we could be on the same page."

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The City Council will officially vote on the Lunskis' request at the next meeting Monday night. It's unlikely city leaders will vote against the event, as council members already approved ordinances for co-mingling and selling merchandise, Simeone said.

Jamie Lunski said he, his wife and company look forward to adding more events this year and in coming years.

"Just ... showing people how spaces can be transformed," he said. "The Greenway is a wonderful space we have in our community, and for 51 weeks out of the year, it's just greenspace, and for one week it's a festival area.

"I had been looking at that area of the Greenway for probably over 20 years, thinking, 'We should do a show down there.' And it finally happened."

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