Video: Enjoy This Short Documentary on the Time Cleveland Released 1.5 Million Balloons to Disastrous Effects


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The year was 1986. The mood, celebratory. Your favorite local TV anchors, dapper as hell in their '80's best. The goal, ambitious. Cleveland would release 1.5 million balloons skyward from Public Square in partnership with the United Way as a kickoff to the non-profit's fundraising campaign and an attempt to set a Guinness World Record. The initial excitement, insane. "There is no mistake on the lake anymore," a giddy Lil' John ironically exclaimed as the balloons engulfed the Terminal Tower. The results, disastrous, of course.

The launch, while colorful and eye-catching, led to a host of complications including but not limited to: the Coast Guard saying balloons that drifted over and into Lake Erie complicated searches for a missing boater who would die, multiple accidents caused by distracted drivers, and "a Geauga County woman [who] complained that balloons landing on her property spooked her prize Arabian horses."

There have been various retellings of the disaster and piecemeal vintage video from the event but now we have a tidy 6-minute documentary directed by Nathan Truesdell that brings it all together with some clips we hadn't seen before.


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