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Chester County Press

East Marlborough officials continue to review plans for the Chester County Balloon Festival

06/08/2021 11:32AM ● By Steven Hoffman
Chester County Balloon Festival organizers will return to East Marlborough supervisors next month seeking approval for a temporary outdoor permit for the three-day festival on Willowdale Steeplechase grounds.
Some of the issues organizers need to resolve, which were topics of the supervisors’ June 7 virtual meeting, are the removal of fireworks from the schedule and the addition of a signed contract with township police and local fire and EMS services. 
The festival is planned for Sept. 10-12 on the Willowdale Steeplechase grounds and will feature balloon flights, music, food trucks, and a pop-up balloon history museum, among other things. This will be the 14th year of the Balloon Festival.
Fireworks, originally planned for Sept. 11, were a concern for nearby horse owners.
“We’re an equestrian community,” James Sinclair of Liondale Farm said Monday night. “I just think it would be in the best interest to say fireworks are probably not a good idea anywhere.”
Speaking on behalf of his family and a neighbor, Sinclair explained that the fireworks, especially those held so close to Sinclair’s and Brown’s properties, would aggravate the horses and cause them to injure themselves.
“Fireworks and horses have traditionally been archenemies,” Sinclair said. “Horses aren’t used to having fireworks going off across the street. Even if we put them in the barn, they’re going to tear the stalls apart and injure themselves.”
Several of the supervisors agreed that the concerns were valid and said they didn’t feel comfortable approving the fireworks.
Regarding the contract, balloon festival executive director Debbie Harding and event representative Rick Schimpf previously met with township police Chief Robert Clarke, Po-Mar-Lin Fire Chief Jason Griffith and Fire Police Captain Andy Skean, and Longwood Fire Company Assistant EMS Chief Matt Eick.
Eick said it was “kind of disheartening that the numbers changed” in what was submitted to the township. “The draft we met about, I felt very comfortable with. I would need more time to digest this with the additional (activities and attendance numbers) to be able to say 100 percent that I’m a go.”
He added that in the draft he had seen, attendance numbers were projected to be lower, and there was a discussion about capping the number of tickets sold “regardless of what happened with COVID.” 
Attendance numbers in the draft presented to the township are between 4,000-5,000 for both Sept. 10 and 12, and 7,000-10,000 for Sept. 11.
There were also some activities included in what was presented to the board that were supposed to have been eliminated, according to Eick, who said he also wasn’t sure if the organizers had finished their discussions with Po-Mar-Lin about a contract with them.
Harding said the reason for the changes were because the rules around COVID-19 had changed.
“It changed literally while we were in discussions with Matt (Eick) and Andy (Skean), and it continues to change,” she said.
Schimpf told the supervisors that all the documents will be signed “and everybody will be happy” before the supervisors’ July 12 meeting, when the balloon fest organizers will return.