Weird History

The Aftermath Of When Cleveland Launched 1.5 Million Balloons Into The Air

The words "balloonfest" and "disaster" don't necessarily seem to go together – except in the case of the 1986 Cleveland Balloonfest, which really did end in disaster for the city. Sometimes, good intentions can end in tragedy – like the man who took a jet ski down Niagara Falls for charity and died in the process – which is exactly what happened when the United Way of Cleveland launched over a million balloons in order to raise money for the organization. 

The Cleveland Balloonfest was a fundraiser that attempted to beat Disneyland's previous record of most balloons released at once. Although the photos are beautiful, the results were disastrous for the environment and the city.  

Thom Sheridan, a Cleveland-based photographer who was on site that day, captured the terrible beauty of Ballooonfest '86 on film.