Short documentary on Cleveland's disastrous 1986 Balloonfest


Originally published at:


Is there any way that releasing a million-plus balloons could end well? All that garbage has to land somewhere.


Watching this, somehow “Oh my God, They’re turkeys!” kept coming to mind.


With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

@roundsound We’re not the first great minds to confuse Cleveland and Cincinnati.


No confusion on the cities, but the efficacy of both events I found similar.


I enjoyed both documentaries :wink:


As God is my witness, I thought balloons could fly.


I couldn’t read that without flashbacks to that all time classic episode.


No no, it’s fine, it just ended up in Canada.


I guess Osborne Reef was “still” a good idea in 1986…


Sweet! Nate Truesdell is a friend of mine. This short played at True/False this year.


Exaclty-- even without the other problems, nobody thought that much garbage is a problem at all. Jesus.


How misguided can you be to believe releasing 1.5 million balloons will change your city’s reputation?
And even if doing so could change the reputation, why would you want to be known as the city that released 1.5 million balloons? Couldn’t they have imagined themselves doing something cooler? I mean, just about anything is better than balloons. Honestly, being known as a shitty city is better than being known as a balloon town.


that’s so sad…misplaced civic pride gone wrong from a battered and beaten city.


Two guys fell in the lake and drowned? That’s their idea of a disaster? Come on Cleveland, you can’t even have a proper tragedy? Where’s the planes crashing and burning buildings?


One of the long-term results of this folly is that today the world is running out of helium. Eventually it all leaked out of those balloons, rose through the atmosphere, and escaped into space. It’s a minor problem that balloons for parties will no longer be buoyant, but a major problem that helium will no longer be available for the many scientific instruments and experiments that require it. Thanks, Cleveland, for destroying entire fields of science.



It seems like they were really making an effort to top Disco Demolition. They almost succeeded, except I had never heard of Balloonfest till now.


To be fair, it’s extremely difficult to contain helium, anyway. As an inert gas it can’t bond with anything, and it’s the smallest atomic particle next to hydrogen, and even hydrogen usually bonds with something heavier than itself. Helium will even slip through solids eventually.

So whatever helium we had would probably have escaped into space no matter what we did. Fortunately, helium is a byproduct of natural gas extraction, so there will still be enough around for the next little while.


I thought it was telling that one of the news people was talking up cleveland and the best thing they could come up with is that they had the Rock n’ Roll HoF. Uh dude, that’s not a positive thing really, and also very few people thought it should be there in the first place.