31 Years Ago, Cleveland Released Over A Million Balloons Into The Sky And Complete Disaster Ensued

The unfortunate title of “The Mistake On The Lake” has long been a thorn in Cleveland’s side. We know the city is fantastic, and we may even chuckle when we hear that unpleasant title, but we acknowledge that it gives us a bad rap. On September 27, 1986, Clevelanders united in an attempt to shake any existing misconceptions and to put Cleveland on the map as one of the nation’s finest cities. However, the event did not go entirely as planned. In fact, the hectic event resulted in complete chaos, and you won’t believe how the destruction unfolded.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Cleveland was home to about 574,000 people, nearly 200,000 more residents than we have today. By 1986, Cleveland was eager to develop a reputation for the bright future its residents were anticipating.

You can watch the whole event unfold in this video from Topic, featuring news footage from Balloonfest ’86.

While balloons are normally thought of as fun and whimsical, Cleveland was the unfortunate site of a magical experience gone wrong. The sheer quantity of balloons must have been awe-inspiring, and to witness over a million colorful masses creating rainbow clouds over the city was undoubtedly an amazing sight to see. Yet, the chaos and waste that rained upon the city was equally as incredible, and the damages sustained were tragic.

Were you in Cleveland for Balloonfest ’86? Did you watch the event or do you remember the aftermath? Share your stories (and any photos you may have) in the comments.

For another unfortunate local tragedy, check out the 1944 explosion that left Cleveland in a state of ruin.