In 1986 United Way and the city of Cleveland teamed up to create a massive spectacle and generate some publicity for the city by blowing up 1.5 million balloons and then releasing them all at once to set a new Guinness World Record. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly go anywhere near to plan and ended up being a complete and major fuck up, leading to millions of dollars in lawsuits and the deaths of two people. This is what went down.
After an army of volunteers tirelessly worked for hours to blow up all the balloons, they were stored under a giant net in downtown Cleveland until the time was right to set them off. This subsequently happened, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. You would think after planning something for so long they would check the weather before they did it, but no whoever was in charge neglected to notice that a storm was moving in from the Great Lakes that day and the winds from this pushed the balloons back into the city. Although it looked pretty great to begin with, things gradually turned more sinister.
The balloons had no place to go and were suspended in and around the city, completely obscuring vision and making it impossible for anyone to fly through them. This led to the deaths of two people when the Coast Guard helicopter was unable to reach an overturned boat as they simply couldn’t get through the balloons to the area. Yeah, I know that sounds ridiculous but when you check out these pictures you’ll understand what I mean. Even the naval Coast Guard was useless as they reached the location but couldn’t find the people in the water because there were so many fucking balloons bobbing around everywhere on the water. Nightmare.
The event also ended up costing the city millions in lawsuits and clean up bills. The cleanup bills part was obvious – they had to clear up 1.5 million balloons from their streets, and that shit isn’t going to come cheap – but the lawsuits were pretty ridiculous and weren’t exactly in keeping with the community spirit that the event was trying to promote. One woman claimed her horse was seriously spooked by the balloons and ended up seriously injuring itself. She sued the city for $100,000 and won. Bitch.
Here are some pictures and a video from that fateful, unbelievable day. I think it would be a cool idea for a movie and I’m kind of surprised nobody has tried to adapt it yet.
(Use the arrows to scroll through the slideshow)
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