Thursday, July 9, 2020
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Danville students go to work on balloon festival

Elementary students at Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois, will be doing more than taking balloon and helicopter rides at this summer’s Balloons Over Vermilion Festival; they’re going to design the festival’s Kids Zone, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette reports.

“They were really excited,” the paper quoted Pat O’Shaughnessy, co-chair of the event, now returning for a second year. “We told them it’s going to be some work, but fun work. … They jumped in and gave us their ideas,” referring to Jessica Alyea’s third-grade class.

The festival comes to the Vermilion Regional Airport, which is located about four miles northeast of Danville’s central business district, on July 14 and 15. The Jesse White Tumblers will make a special appearance to perform some high-flying feats on the ground, and about 30 hot-air balloons will be on hand to take flight to a much higher level. The Central Illinois festival saw about 20,000 spectators last year.

A few local pilots spent some time with the students, who will be ambassadors and needed to brush up on some ballooning basics. Hot air balloons are actually based on a very basic scientific principle: warmer air rises in cooler air.

After that, the ideas just started flowing from these kids. They think shorter lines for the tethered balloon rides would be a good idea. They also think having more bounce houses in the Kids Zone would make the festival more user-friendly.

“We thought these kids should be on our steering committee,” Mr O’Shaughnessy said with a laugh. “They were way ahead of us.”

But with their new role comes a little homework—not the boring kind, but the fun kind. The Kids Zone will include a giant mural, for instance, according to Jaclyn Vinson and Samantha McCoy, Kids Zone co-chairs. Kids need to create the mural so visitors to the Kids Zone can color it in during the festival. (The school gets the mural when it’s all over.) Ms Alyea’s students will also help design posters to be used to market the event.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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