Organizers on Sunday abruptly canceled the Rhythm ’n Balloons festival, a three-day event featuring hot air balloons in Hodge Park in Kansas City, North.
The festival announced on its website that it had canceled Sunday’s events — which included the hot air balloons, tethered balloon rides, local bands, a Kidz Zone and a laser light show — because of “unforeseen circumstances related to weather the past few days.”
The festival posted a notice to Rhythm ’n Balloons Facebook page at 1:30 p.m. saying organizers would post a message on its website that ticket holders who bought online for Sunday’s events would receive an email regarding a refund.
Earlier in the day, the festival said it was looking forward to a “great day and night again at the festival!” It urged people to check out its schedule.
At the same time, the festival announced that the morning balloon competition had been canceled, but the balloons would try again at dusk Sunday.
“The winds are blowing in a bad direction, there is patchy fog and the balloon field is too wet to lay the balloons out for inflation,” the festival said.
The headliners scheduled to appear at the three-day event included Los Lobos, Travis Tritt, Eddie Money and Jo Dee Messina.
The festival battled the weather all weekend. Because of a tornado warning north of Kansas City and strong winds associated with a storm moving across the area, Friday’s balloon launch was canceled and the balloons were not being inflated, according a post about 7:15 p.m. on the festival’s Facebook page.
About a half hour later, the festival announced on Facebook it was shutting things down and taking cover after being hit by a torrential downpour, with radar indicating that more rain was to come.
Katey Woodlam, volunteer manager for the balloon festival, said that the balloons showed up but never flew because of the weather.
“They could’ve flown today (Sunday),” she said.
The abrupt ending of the festival angered vendors and those helping to put on festival.
Chris Brainard, the festival’s music and vendor organizer, and John Sills, the festival’s operations manager, said the festival organizers didn’t tell them it had been canceled. Instead, it was a call from Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation Department that notified them.
Brainard and Sills said they hadn’t been able to reach Robbie and Steve Small, who started the balloon festival in 2010 as the Great Midwest Balloon Fest on a 320-acre-patch of farmland at 167th Street and Antioch Road in Overland Park.
It’s been held at several locations since then, including the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., in 2014; and the National Agricultural Center Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs in 2015.
Brainard and Sills said that vendors and others hadn’t been paid.
“There are a lot of people who are very frustrated and very hurt,” Sills said.
The Smalls could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.
Max Parsons, owner of D&M Plumbing of Warrensburg, Mo., provided portable toilets for the festival.
He said he had a bill in his truck for $12,800, but had not received any money.
The portable toilets were ordered and built specially for the festival. Virtually all of the portable toilets were brand new, he said.
“We put 150 of them together in our backyard,” Parsons said.