Baotou City in Inner Mongolia thought that a hot air balloon would be a good idea and might attract tourists. So it went out for experts and found one, paid him, ran the festival and it was all a success.
Howard Freeman, best known for piloting of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning at Readington’s Solberg-Hunterdon Airport into the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America was the man chosen for the job. He has just returned from Inner Mongolia where he ran the first ever Qin Great Wall Balloon Festival in the middle of August. He’s the guy in the yellow outside the basket.
His Quick Chek festival drew more than 125 hot-air balloons and 162,500 people, which means the start of a major national event with international publicity.
Howard Freeman said that in November, he received an e-mail from a group in Shanghai wanting to promote tourism in the Inner Mongolia section of China, and asking all sorts of questions about how to put on a balloon festival.
He answered, only to receive more e-mails with still more questions.
He offered to run it for a fee. They agreed. The festival was the result.
Howard Freeman and his team flew 14 hours to Beijing then traveled deep into the mountains of Inner Mongolia until they reached the city of Baotou.
Freeman said the festival’s opening ceremony was attended by more than 100,000 people.
The festival featured more than 100 hot-air balloons, including 15 special shaped balloons from the United States and Belgium like the Darth Vader mask and a big fire breathing dragon.
"They all know Darth Vader from Star Wars, but dragons are good luck in China," Freeman said. "When it landed, everyone went over to the dragon balloon to touch the warm air of the dragon breath for good luck."
My Central Jersey reported that despite the language issues and shortages of fans and gasoline, it all worked out fine. Freeman said the organizers are already talking about making the festival bigger and better, and maybe doing one in Shanghai or the south.