In 1986 America was facing an airborne plague of a different sort. While much less severe than our current issues, it had all the makings of a cataclysmic event for Cleveland, Ohio. That plague, of course, was balloons.
Balloonfest '86 was a fundraising publicity stunt by the city of Cleveland that backfired so spectacularly you'd think it was commissioned by the Browns. The idea was for Cleveland to release almost 1.5 million balloons over the city, which itself is the type of PR stunt so crazy that you'd imagine Don Draper pitching it after plowing through half a full bottle of gin. In actuality, it was coordinated by Balloonart by Treb, an LA-based company headed by, not too surprisingly, a guy named Treb Heining. The idea was to set a world record for the number of balloons released at once because setting world records was the type of thing people had to do for fun before everyone had an Xbox.
What resulted was a catastrophe of Acme level proportions. Things started smoothly as the balloons were released in unison and cascaded upward in vivid multi-colored harmony. It was honestly quite beautiful.
But then the balloons hit a massive cold front, and suddenly Cleveland turned into the Balloonacolypse. Balloons rained down from the heavens, descending upon the citizens of Cleveland in a rubbery, colorful swarm. Waterways were clogged, traffic was stopped from multiple collisions, and two fishermen died because, instead of holding a bake sale, Cleveland had to go be Cleveland. Balloonfest '86 still holds the record for "largest-ever mass balloon release" with 1,429,643 balloons, and we can't imagine why no one has since tried to top them. But who knows, maybe this is the year. With the way 2020 has been going, not even a maelstrom of balloons smacking us in the face would be a surprise.
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