Lift-Off looks ahead to 20th anniversary with old school philosophy

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Balloons at Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off.

CORNWALL, Ontario - Lift-Off will likely go back to its roots next year - and lower its prices.

Jason Jesmer, co-chair of the hot-air balloon festival, told a city budget committee organizers plan to attract "more traditional" headline acts this year to bring more people back for the 20th anniversary of the event.

“We are formulating more of a traditional lineup that we’ve had in the past with top recording artists,” said Jesmer, suggesting the 2013 strategy of bringing in several bands to fill Lamoureux Park with continuous music didn’t pan out. “We didn’t have the greatest year last year – attendance was down a little bit.”

Jesmer added ticket price points will likely be lowered this year to make the event more affordable.

"We realize that in the past it could be kind of expensive for a family of four to afford it," he said.

Jesmer said more details specific to pricing, fundraising an entertainment will be released in the coming weeks.

Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off is looking for $15,000 in in-kind services from the city in 2014. Last year it requested $22,000, but only used $16,476.

"We don't want to be the ones who say we have a big budget and get the most out of the city as possible," said Jesmer "But we're being very conservative. We're asking for what we got last year."

The in-kind services include things like labour in Lamoureux Park.

The festival had come under fire for last year's decision to move its launch site to Avonmore because winds were forcing balloons into the U.S.

“A lot of the complaints received is the balloons were being lifted off in a far-off area and people couldn’t see them," said Coun. Gerry Samson.

Jesmer said organizers are discussing alternatives if the weather prohibits the launch of balloons from Lamoureux Park.

One idea is to split the balloon launches into different areas throughout the region, including in the city, in the event a Lamoureux Park launch is not feasible.

“The launches have always been an issue," said Jesmer. "We're discussing different ideas right now."

Jesmer said even if winds are capable of blowing balloons into the U.S. like last year, border patrol officials would be more receptive to dealing with five or six pilots landing there, as opposed to 25.

Geographic location: Ontario, Lamoureux Park

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