Up, up and away … the International Balloon Festival is coming up.

Jason Schulke talks about the upcoming Kissimmee International Balloon Festival of Festivals with members of the Four Corners Area Council. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

FOUR CORNERS – Sometimes events start out small, but have the potential to soar to amazing heights.
This September, Jason Schulke is hoping to do both.
“This is definitely a community initiative,” he said. “There are a lot of efforts that are being put into this.”
Schulke is the director of business development and marketing at Orlando Balloon Rides, which specializes in offering private hot air balloon rides for couples and families.
Now he’s also one of the organizers of the upcoming Kissimmee International Balloon Festival of Festivals, which will be held on Sept. 21-23, at Formosa Gardens Village at 7836 U.S. 192 in Four Corners. It’s going to be an opportunity to take part in a three day event that Schulke hopes will not only offer something for everyone, but will be the start of an annual event that becomes a staple in the Four Corners area.
“We’re trying to draw more awareness to the area, and year after year draw in more people,” he said.
As now planned, the event will run on Friday, Sept. 21 from 3-9 p.m.; on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and on Sunday, Sept. 23 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. To get more information on the festival, area residents can call 407-396-1188 or log on to www.Kissimmeefestival.com.
Expect a lot, Schulke said.
“We will have a food and wine portion and an arts and crafts portion, and 50 to 60 balloons that people can ride in,” he said. “There will be mass dissensions. We’ll have flights over the event. We’ll have sky diving. If you like, you can sign up at the event and go sky diving over it.”
Mary Ellen Kerber, the manager of the hosting site, Formosa Gardens Village – the shopping plaza on U.S. 192 – said they’re still looking for business sponsors for the event.
“We’re looking for corporate sponsors, so give us a call, we’d love to talk to you,” Kerber said.
Applications are also available for vendors who want to set up a booth at the festival.
“We can offer booth space for in-kind amenities,” she said.
Schulke said he hopes to grow this festival annually so that it becomes as well known as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an event with balloon rides held yearly in October in New Mexico’s largest city.
“It’s really something we’re looking to build year after year,” Schulke said. “We have a dream and desire to build something that has the buzz like the New Mexico ballon festival does.”
His mission now is to get out the word about this event, which is why Schulke spent Thursday morning giving a presentation on it to the business owners who make up the Four Corners Area Council. The meeting was held at ChampionsGate Golf Resort.
“We’ve got a very dynamic marketing plan,” Schulke said. “We want those three days to be outstanding.”
Paul Senft, Haines City’s economic development director, asked Schulke to provide the council members with a list of volunteer activities they could sign up for – although Senft was quick to add, “I won’t volunteer to jump out of a balloon.”

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