35 Years Ago, Cleveland Released Over A Million Balloons Into The Sky And Complete Disaster Ensued
By Nikki Rhoades|Published September 27, 2017
Nikki is a lifelong Ohioan with a love for literature. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Akron and has enjoyed publishing her written work since 2007. She has a love of travel and does so frequently, though she believes that home is where the heart is — she continues to work in and around Cleveland as a digital content specialist to this day, working on everything from commercial scripts and social media posts to grassroots marketing initiatives.
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.