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Balloon Classic a go for 2013, but still up in the air for future years

Published: July 10, 2013, 9:49 pm, by Monica Mendoza

Colorado Balloon Classic will be held in Memorial Park this Labor Day weekend.

But organizer Patsy Buchwald said she still is looking into other locations, including out of the state,  for the annual balloon event.

 “I’m not trying to play a game,” she said. “I’m trying to stay in business.”

The Colorado Balloon Classic, a for-profit business,  got a boost Tuesday when the city agreed to pick up the tab on barricade fees. The fees were new this year, added when police said the would prefer to barricade some streets near Memorial Park for safety reasons. Buchwald said the added cost — an estimated $6,596 – was more than she could afford and could jeapordize the event.

Buchwald just returned from a trip out of state, where she said she was scouting other locations for the annual event. She’s run balloon events in many other states, she said.

“If it is not going to be financially feasible to stay, we won’t stay,” she said.

 Council member Helen Collins was behind the initiative to get the city to pick up the tab for barricades. The annual event brings in millions of tourism dollars, something the city is constantly talking about, she said.

The expenditure, which comes from the city’s Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax fund, brings the city’s total commitment to the Balloon Classic to $38,146, which includes $21,350 for police services; $1,800 from Colorado Springs Utilities sponsorship; and about $8,400 for fire department medical support, parks and recreation fees, street sweeping and city engineering services.

 The Colorado Balloon Classic is a mainstay of events, beginning 37 years ago. In 2005, the Balloon Classic was designated as “city-sponsored” event. At that time the city waived all costs for city services for 2005 and 2006. In years that followed the city capped its support to $21,350. Any police costs over that were to be covered by the Balloon Classic. In 2009, the Balloon Classic paid $1,382; in 2010 it paid $5,890; in 2011 it paid $4,738 and in 2012 it was supposed to pay $7,450 but was never charged due to an error in the finance department.

 Buchwald said she was grateful for the council’s support of the 2013 event.  But she anticipates a higher police fee bill next year because officers were awarded pay raises earlier this year.

“We are still scheduled to have the event,” she said. “And then we will re-evaluate to see if its financially practical. We have to see where we are with all that.”