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Published: Monday, April 15, 2019 @ 9:00 AM
MIDDLETOWN — An event that brings millions of dollars to Middletown and the region is making preparations for this summer after suffering a washout last year and losing its presenting sponsor.
Dave Pearce, event organizer and treasurer for the Ohio Challenge hot air balloon competition, said the committee is continuing to recruit sponsors, vendors and balloon pilots for the July 19-20 event at Smith Park.
Pearce and the committee is hoping for some better weather this year after torrential rains washed out last year’s event. He said the committee will be meeting on Tuesday to continue its organization efforts.
“We’re targeting 20 to 25 balloonists to compete this year,” he said.
The event is also overcoming the loss of Selection.com as the presenting sponsor after a dispute last year between the city of Middletown and Start Skydiving, a sister company of Selection.com, over a number of contractual issues at the Middletown Regional Airport.
The city was also increasing its awareness and enforcing FAA regulations about parking on the airfield for the event. The parking issue and the loss of its key sponsor prompted the Ohio Challenge and city officials to work through those obstacles.
“We’re in good shape,” Pearce said. “It’s going to happen and we’ll be able to park at the airport.”
Last November, Middletown City Council pledged up to $25,000 from its bed tax collections to assist the Ohio Challenge organizing committee to recoup some of the losses from the departure of the presenting sponsor.
Selection.com is one of more than 30 sponsors that provides cash or in-kind services to the event, according to Pearce. Selection.com also funded the event’s fireworks show, he said.
John Hart II said his company “has been the key sponsor of the Ohio Challenge for the past five years, contributing more than $250,000 toward its success,” according to an email he sent Aug. 8, 2018 to City Council members and other officials that was obtained by the Journal-News.
According to event organizers, the 2017 Ohio Challenge generated an estimated direct economic impact of $2 million to $2.5 million. Organizers said the event attracts an average of 50,000 to 55,000 people, with about 50 percent of the visitors are from Butler and Warren counties. About 94 percent of the visitors are from Ohio.