Friday fun: Balloon rides over Carmel

June 21, 2013
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Marching bands, fried Snickers and balloon rides are on tap for the 25th annual CarmelFest, a July tradition that draws an estimated 50,000 celebrants downtown.

“It’s a big deal,” said Jeff Worrell, who chairs the volunteer committee that organizes what he called the largest single event in Carmel.

The festivities kick off the afternoon of July 3 and continue through a no-holds-barred fireworks show on Independence Day.

New this year: $5 rides in one of Re/Max Real Estate’s fleet of hot-air balloons, which will be tethered in the so-called “North Zone” in Carmel’s Civic Square on opening day. The 40-foot-high zenith should provide a decent view of nearby City Center and other recent development.

Other highlights include a July 4 parade—with enough goodies tossed at the crowd to qualify as a “mini Mardi Gras,” Worrell said—entertainment on four stages and “every kind of fried food you can imagine.”

Worrell said parade-goers stake out their favorite vantage point as much as two days early, marking their territory with chairs and blankets that stay curbside (undisturbed) until the big event.

This year’s grand marshals are former Mayor Dottie Hancock and ex-Chamber of Commerce chief Nancy Blondin, who started CarmelFest 25 years ago.

The event’s $200,000-plus budget is covered mostly by sponsorships (Rotary Club of Carmel is the presenting sponsor) and vendor fees, but organizers also sell so-called “spark” buttons to raise additional funds.

“It’s important that individuals have the opportunity to support their own festival,” said Worrell, who introduced the community fundraising effort in 1994.

The committee hopes to sell 3,500 buttons this year. Prices are $3 for a simple pin and $6 for a lighted one.

CarmelFest veterans, help us newbies out: What is your favorite part of the celebration?


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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.