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Chester County Press

East Marlborough Township officials discuss Chester County Balloon Festival

03/08/2021 04:03PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Organizers of the 14th annual Chester County Balloon Festival will return to the East Marlborough supervisors next month to seek approval to hold the festival in September.

The festival’s executive director, Debbie Harding, and event organizer Rick Schimpf appeared at the township supervisors’ remote meeting March 1. But the board had a number of questions about things like fire and EMS coverage, police presence, and traffic control that they wanted answers for before they would issue any kind of an approval.

A conditional approval was discussed as an option for the festival, which is proposed for the Willowdale Steeplechase grounds at routes 926 and 82. But supervisors’ Chairman Robert McKinstry summed up the concerns when he said, “The supervisors are concerned about a conditional approval where the conditions cover most of the approval.”

The supervisors said they didn’t have a problem with the date, which is proposed for Sept.  10-12 at the Willowdale property. One issue of concern was for fire and EMS coverage, as the festival is proposed for the same weekend as the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square Borough, Chadds Ford Days in Delaware County, and the 9/11 anniversary. Another question was whether President Joe Biden would be at his Delaware residence that weekend, which would necessitate the involvement of the Secret Service and would also cause temporary air traffic restrictions that could impact the balloons’ flights.

“Our current President resides within a 30-mile air traffic restriction, which the balloons would fall in,” Schimpf said.

The balloon festival was cancelled last year because of COVID-19. Instead of holding the festival in its traditional month of June, the organizers are proposing to move the event to September because of COVID.

“The big thing is hopefully COVID will be a little less prevalent as it is, and we can start getting back to normal lives, which is the Chester County Balloon Festival’s biggest concern,” said Schimpf. “Our festival can be postponed again if we have a flare-up of COVID.” 

Tickets would allow visitors to the festival only on specific days, for instance with entrance only on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, according to Schimpf. Fireworks would be held one-night only, and fewer food trucks would be allowed for the event.

The hours would also be reduced; for instance, opening night would be from 4:30-9 p.m., instead of from 3-9 p.m. as originally imagined for June, and the Saturday and Sunday hours would be about six hours less.

“By reducing the time of the event, it is our hope that the event will be less taxing and stressful on our resources,” according to the outdoor activity permit application.

Schimpf said they have also been in contact with a COVID advisor, and attendees would be required to wear masks.

The organizers still need to firm up traffic control plans with township police and the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, and medical services with Longwood Fire Company or another vendor, according to the application, among other things.

McKinstry said his inclination would be for the organizers to work the fire and EMS, police, traffic control, and COVID restrictions out before East Marlborough would issue a final approval.

More information about the balloon festival can be found at

In other business:

The township solicitor is currently looking at a request that would solicit proposals from accountants to perform the 2021 audit for East Marlborough. No decision on the RFP was made at the March 1 meeting.

If approved by the supervisors, the RFP would seek proposals for professional auditing services to begin Jan. 1, 2022 to provide among other things an audit of East Marlborough’s general, sewer, and state liquid fuels funds, as well as the Unionville Community Park fund. 

According to township manager Neil Lovekin, the timeline could include sending out the RFP by May 10, accepting proposals until June 10, opening bids on June 11, and having the supervisors make a decision by July 12.

At their February meeting, the supervisors approved a resolution appointing Barbacane Thornton to perform the 2020 audit.

Supervisors held an executive session prior to the March 1 meeting to discuss personnel and real estate, according to McKinstry.

The supervisors approved an application by The Lights Festival to hold a two-day event in the township on April 23-24. The festival will be held at Plantation Field from 4-10 p.m. each day. The lanterns that will be launched into the air are made of bamboo and are “100 percent environmentally safe,” according to organizer Collin Maki. For more information about the festival, go to