While the state park system valued hosting the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival at Chatfield State Park every year, it couldn’t extend any financial breaks to prevent the demise of the financially ailing event, a parks spokeswoman says.
"We loved the event," parks spokeswoman Deb Frazier said last week. “It was spectacular. Certainly the event is sorely missed."
The three-day event drew thousands of spectators and scores of pilots to Chatfield annually the past nine years, but the organizers had to end plans for any future festivals, citing a lack of sponsorships and income.
Terry Smith said the parks system didn't share gate revenue and wouldn't allow her to add to the entry fee to generate income. The parks system also wouldn't budge on the fees it charged the festival to operate, Smith said.
Frazier said all events held at state parks are treated equally under policies set by the state board.
"Many large events held inside of parks and outside of parks don't make money," Frazier said. "Especially in this economic climate, sponsorships are hard to find. We wish that we were able to help them. But in our budget situation, it's just not possible."
Frazier said state parks host many events, some for charities, and "we have the same arrangements with all of these. We have to treat all the events the same. It's unfair to give extra support to one event and not another."
Frazier initially said that Chatfield State Park "donated the time of (park) rangers, volunteers and park staff" to the balloon festival, but later said she wasn't sure. Smith said the park charged the festival "for every single thing."
In a followup e-mail to the Courier, Frazier said Chatfield's preparation for the festival began a month before, with park staff recruiting volunteers to work on fencing, signs, trash cans and mowing.
"The work at the park continues after the festival ends with picking up trash and other cleanup tasks," Frazier wrote.
She added that the fees charged to the festival for park use - a figure Smith claimed was at least $10,000 - represented a "fraction of the overall costs to the park."
Frazier said the parks system continues to hope sponsors can be found so the event can be resurrected.
"We are looking forward to working with the balloon festival in the future," Frazier said. "But we will have to follow the same policy that's used for other events, for-profit and non-profit, at other parks."
Deb Frazier's comments and the thoughts of the state parks system didn't appear in the Aug. 26 Courier story announcing that the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival is grounded indefinitely. Phone calls between Frazier and the Courier went back and forth, but she was not reached by deadline prior to the Aug. 26 issue.