Pic of the Day: 1.5 Million Balloons Released on Public Square in '86


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The United Way came under fire this week when families victimized by the Chardon shooting sued the organization for mismanaging a fund dedicated to their healing and recovery. It's not the first time the United Way has dealt with lawsuits.

Back in 1986, in a massive fundraising spectacle, downtown Cleveland became the launch site of "Balloonfest," a coordinated release of 1.5 million balloons. The release was at that time a world record, eclipsing Anaheim, California, who'd released a shit ton of ballloons the year before on the occasion of Disneyland's 30th anniversary (photo above, via Collective History).

Much like city officials who failed to calculate the serious consequences of closing down the Shoreway for two weeks, the United Way was so enamored of the glamour that it didn't foresee the havoc the balloons would wreak. To wit:

The balloons closed down a runway at Burke Lakefront Airport, precluded the rescue of two missing boaters on Lake Erie, littered the beaches of Ontario, and spooked a horse in Medina, whose savvy owner sued and settled with United Way.

Cleveland certainly has a way of putting itself on the map for precisely the opposite of the intended reasons.


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