Vintage Video: Cleveland Preps and Releases 1.5 Million Balloons in 1986

[image-1] We've all probably seen pictures before detailing the harrowing and embarrassing day back in 1986 when Cleveland and the United Way released 1.5 million balloons into the sky from Public Square.

It was an effort to set a Guinness World Record and raise awareness for the organization's cause. It ended, thanks to a weather system that pushed into downtown, with confusion and the 1.5 million balloons being pushed over downtown and toward Burke airport and into the lake. There were some real repercussions in addition to the general mess the gimmick created: the coast guard had been searching for two fishermen on the lake and the widow of one of the men sued the United Way later, claiming the help couldn't distinguish between the balloons and the two men lost in the water. 

That and other complications were covered by the Plain Dealer back in 2011 — the 25th anniversary of the launch — including a Geauga County woman who complained the balloons "spooked her prize Arabian horses," that they caused 30 minute delays at Burke, created accidents by distracted drivers, and washed up on Canadian shores.

What we hadn't seen, until now, is video of the event and the leadup. Thanks to YouTube, we now have that. Enjoy.


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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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