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Balloons (and blues) coming this weekend
MONROE - The sport of hot air ballooning is notoriously weather-dependent, but the lack of hot air balloons in the sky above Monroe this past weekend was no fault of weather conditions.

The U.S. Open National Championships for hot air ballooning were planned this spring to begin Saturday, June 8, but had to be canceled because the organizer says he couldn't find the support, financial and otherwise, for the event.

"There was just a lack of overall support," said Maury Petrehn, a hot air ballooning enthusiast from Kansas who brought the event to Monroe in 2012.

The costly championships were too much of a personal financial burden, Petrehn said.

"I'm not about to blow my $10,000, $20,000," he said. Monroe remains one of his favorite places to balloon, he added. "We're hoping to come back to Monroe someday, but we're not going to pay for it out of our own pocket."

Balloon lovers aren't out of luck this summer, however.

The locally organized 28th Annual Monroe Balloon Rally and Blues Festival is still on for Father's Day weekend - Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15.

The addition of "and Blues Festival" to the event's name honors the full 10 hours of live music performed at the festival over the weekend.

Music isn't new to the balloon rally - an event that has long included a car show, tethered balloon flights, concessions and other activities besides balloon-watching.

Organizer Matt Urban put 10 hours of live music on the schedule last year, too, to see how it would go.

"I wanted to make sure we could deliver on that promise," he said. It went so well he decided this year to include the musical component in the festival's name.

Jimmy Voegeli, of the band The Jimmys, helped Urban by booking the weekend's talent, which includes Grammy-nominated New Orleans blues artist "Braille Blues Daddy" Bryan Lee.

But balloons are still the main reason for the event.

"It always has been and always will be the balloon rally," Urban said. What's new this year, he added, is "taking on the focus of making this more of a festival."

All activities take place at the Green County Fairgrounds. Admission to the fairgrounds is free; parking on the grounds is $3.

To get up-to-the-minute notifications about the balloons and when they're flying, visit or rally.