What could be the problem with balloons? They are colorful and fun. But In 1986 balloon fest in Cleveland led to total chaos.
Charity organization united way of Cleveland wanted to organize a spectacular fest. The Balloonfest was coordinated by Balloon art by Treb, a Los Angeles-based company headed by Treb Heining, which spent six months preparing for it. They attempted to set a new world record for simultaneously released balloons. The organization hoped to earn money from it. The aim of Cleveland was to release 2 millions of helium balloons.
Then what could go wrong?
2,500 volunteers worked all night long in the central public square before it starts and it looked very impressive. Supporting structures were as tall as a three-story building.
At the day of the balloon fest, it was expected to rain so they decided to release only 1.5 millions of ballons. It was a breath-taking show. Balloons clouded the sky but the triumph was short-lived. The plan was that balloons would fly away and biodegrade in the forest and fields but the weather had its own plans.
It started to rain and balloons met a cold front so instead of floating up they got back to the ground. Streets and roads of Cleveland were clogged with balloons. Local airport had to shut down for 30 minutes to get rid of them.
Some of the balloons ended up in Lake Erie. Two fishermen, Raymond Broderick, and Bernard Sulzer, who had gone out on September 26, were reported missing by their families on the day of the event. but Ballons covered the surface of Lake Erie and made it impossible to see if anyone was in the water. A search-and-rescue boat crew tried to spot the fishermen floating in the lake, but it's impossible to see anyone on the lake. The men were later found drowned.
There was a couple of car accidents because of the ballons. The balloon-storm also frightened racehorses. They injured themselves out of fear. The charity organization was later sued by the wife of one the drowned fishermen and by the owner of the horses.
In the total United way of Cleveland spent $500,000 on the balloon fest and millions of dollars on settling the lawsuits.