Friday fun: Balloon rides over Carmel

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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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