The 34th Annual Canton Balloon Classic will kick off a week of Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement events.
More than 50 balloons will fill the skies above Canton, according to organizer Andrea Hartman.
“Smiley the Scarecrow. We have Oggy the Dragon. He’s a friendly dragon, though," she said, describing the balloons that are part of this year's event. "We have Albert Einstein. He’s a scholarly owl. And we have the pig who comes to our event every year. And we have Elvis coming back. He towers over 11 stories. So when you see him coming, he has officially left the building.”
Public rides are happening Saturday and Sunday at Kent State University's Stark campus, along with other festivities. Hartman said the event began as a way to entertain enshrinees and has ballooned into a community event.
“It’s so peaceful to look up and see those in the sky," she said. "And many people say they don’t even realize that it’s Enshrinement Festival. But they look up and see the hot air balloons and realize, ‘Oh boy, it’s here!’”
Hartman added that Stark County residents with large backyards that are free of trees and power lines can also participate by laying out a 200-foot-by-200-foot white bed sheet to signal balloon pilots that they can land, if needed. The pilots offer landowners the chance to win $50 in appreciation of land use.
After the balloons land Friday night, they will illuminate the field at the Stark campus for an event called “Night Glow,” which is open to the public.
Along with music and fireworks, the festival will include, for the first time, a donut-eating contest at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019 includes:
Cornerback Champ Bailey (1999-2003 Washington Redskins, 2004-2013 Denver Broncos)
Tight End Tony Gonzalez (1997-2008 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009-2013 Atlanta Falcons)
Cornerback Ty Law (1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005/2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos)
Center Kevin Mawae (1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans)
Safety Ed Reed (2002-2012 Baltimore Ravens, 2013 Houston Texans, 2013 New York Jets)
Safety Johnny Robinson (1960-1971 Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs)
Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen
Former Dallas Cowboys VP of Personnel Gil Brandt