44th Annual ClovisFest and Hot Air Balloon Fun FlySep 27, 2018 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema
On the Rise
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos Courtesy of Clovis Chamber of Commerce
IF A DECADES-OLD FESTIVAL kept doing what it had always done, no one would blame its event organizer for resting on the laurels of the festival’s past successes. But that’s not how ClovisFest’s event organizer Tammi Walton approached the festival in its 44th year. Many of its staple events will return, but this is also the first year ClovisFest includes Wow Factor Attractions, in addition to partnering with the Fresno Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau to create an even larger International Village for its third year. And of course the festival’s signature event, the Hot Air Balloon Fun Fly, will soar above it all.
“I’ve been here for 19 years,” says Walton, “since it was a small festival in Old Town Clovis. Back in 1989 was when we first had our balloons, and we had about 65, and at that time they took off from the Sierra Vista Mall.”
Since then, the balloons’ launch site has moved to the rodeo grounds, nearer downtown Clovis to better accommodate a growing festival that has expanded to 12 city blocks, side streets, and more than 200 craft and commercial booths.
While the festival has grown in size over the years, the number of balloons has dwindled to about a dozen, but with commercial and residential growth in the area, Walton says with a laugh, “I don’t think we’d be able to land that many balloons anymore anyway.”
That doesn’t mean the site of the balloons’ bright colors rising over the Sierras in the early morning is any less spectacular. In fact, Walton says thousands of people arrive for the 7 am launch, weather permitting, and she suggests visitors arrive as early as 6 am.
After the balloons take flight, on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, festival-goers are welcome to cross the street from the grounds and enter another world – or culture, anyway.
“This will be the third year we’ve added the International Village,” which will feature about a dozen different cultural groups, says Walton. “And it continues to grow,” Walton adds, expanding onto Bullard Avenue and 8 Street, and moving the beer garden to 4 Street to accommodate.
The International Village will include education booths and dancing, and is “an excellent way for people to learn about the many, many different cultures living here,” says Walton.
More than cultural instruction, though, Walton says the village will feature nonstop dancing, including Polynesian, among others.
“The entertainment starts about 9 o’clock, and there will be these big ol’ loud drums,” continues Walton, who says dancers often interact with the audience.
The new attraction this year is San Diego-based Wow Factor Attractions, a company that specializes in unique and fun inflatable attractions, like mazes and climbing walls. This is bigger than the standard bounce house, and Walton says the company brings inflatable attractions to another level. Those rides will be located on 4 Street and Clovis Avenue.
Also in its first year, and in true fall form, the ClovisFest is hosting a Kids Zone with a pumpkin patch, including costumed princesses offering photo opportunities, a petting zoo and other activities.
And of course, ClovisFest will feature various food vendors, from Thai food to Mexican, as well as Wafflicious.
“You have to go for the wonton tacos,” says Walton. “If you haven’t had them you don’t know what you’re missing.”
For those looking to quench their thirst on what could be a warm fall day, the beer garden will be open, featuring live music.
For all that ClovisFest has to offer, the biggest appeal perhaps is that entry is free. Costs are separate for food and some Wow Factor Attraction rides, but the 44-year-old festival, Walton says, “is here for the community.”
With so much to do, ClovisFest isn’t just a daylong event, but packed into two. And for those who want to witness the flight of the balloons, Walton recommends they get there early.
“I would definitely be there by 6:15,” says Walton. “I’ve watched these balloons for over 19 years and I’m still in awe of it.” •
44th Annual ClovisFest and
Hot Air Balloon Fun Fly
Saturday, Oct. 27 8am-5pm
Sunday, Oct. 28, 8am-5pm
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