Group raises $13K, benefits 20 organizations

DANSVILLE — It was another big night for the New York State Festival of Balloons as they came together to help the community.

Dansville NYSFOB raised $13,000 again this year in donations for 20 organizations. They held the ceremony at the Dansville Public Library on Nov. 18.

The following organizations were honored this year: Santa’s Hat Society, Dansville Fire Department, Suzanne’s Comfort Care Home, Cancer Comfort Bags Project, Dansville Public Library, Dansville American Legion, Noyes Hospital, Catholic Charities in Livingston County, Dansville High School, All Sports Boosters, Dansville Venturing Crew, Dansville Food Pantry, Rinkers Readers, Dansville Artworks, EARS lifeline, Theresa House, Vincent House, Chances and Changes, Stony Brook Pediatrics, and Samaritan Fund.

Before the ceremony they honored C.A.N.N. and the Dansville Ambulance for the hard work and dedication they put into the festival and community.

“It was another successful year for the New York State Festival of Balloons. The committee is all about keeping the event beautiful and safe which is a very important element for all of us. Safe air balloon launches that carry passengers to see the beauty of the valley in Dansville from a bird’s eye view,” Dorothy Hotchkiss, president of NYSFOB, said. “That is an end result of 11 months of hard work; wrapping up the business end of the previous year and beginning again immediately planning the next year. You are all welcome to come attend and help volunteer. Tonight (Nov. 18) is about thanking you, the community, residents, and of course the sponsors.”

Hotchkiss thanked everyone involved with the festival from the volunteers to the sponsors who make it a success every year. Dansville Valley Fuel was a huge sponsor this year. She added that every sponsor makes an impact.

“Every sponsorship no matter the size makes a huge difference in what we do. It allows us to give back to the community. It helps to cover expenses,” she said. “People from all over the area come out to enjoy the festival. We have people come from up and down the East Coast and even our neighbors in Canada. We even get people from Ohio.”

Hotchkiss said the unique thing about the festival is the hot air balloon pilots get offered free lodging.

“One of the unique things that we offer at our festival for the pilots is free lodging. That is not traditional or typical for a balloon festival, but we have done that since the conception of the Dansville Balloon Festival. Community people offer their homes to the pilots if they have a spare bedroom,” she said. “It is a way to build a good relationship with a hot air balloon pilot. Many local families have long lasting life friends by hosting the pilots. It is an important part of our festival since it sets the atmosphere as a friendly place to come.”

The launches are the best part of the festival and when mother nature cooperates it is a good time for all, she added. 

“We have good launches so people can go up. We have great entertainment and vendors within the festival grounds. When it all comes together and is safe, we are all thankful,” Hotchkiss said. “The greatest satisfaction we have is when we complete all our reports, pay all of our bills, and know that we can give back to our community. We have done this for well over 19 years. We have done a better job of keeping records of our gifts since 2001. To this date we have given back $219,641 to the community.”

Aidan Kreiley, Santa’s Hat Society Elf and Dansville Swimmer of the Year accepted the donation on behalf of the society. He thanked the festival committee and spoke about the importance of the society’s gifts of Christmas to needy children.

Jennifer Howe, Cancer Comfort Care Bag Project founder, started it in 2016 to give those fighting cancer hope. They do hundreds of care bags a year for cancer patients.

Terry Dearing, Dansville Public Library director, said that the library is thankful for the donation since it has become more of a community center. The money will go to help keep it going.

Amy Pollard, UR Medicine/Noyes Health CEO, said she is always grateful for the donations and support of the community for the hospital.

There were about 30,000 people from all over the country and Canada at the festival this year. It is a great way to bring awareness to the historic town of Dansville. The festival is always looking for volunteers, sponsors, and host families. If interested contact the Dansville Festival of Balloon Committee. The board includes Jim Helfrich, Mary Ann Holden, Victoria Holland, Erik Kastner, Gerri Waight, and Dorothy Hotchkiss. The committee includes; Peter Bacon, Larry Brockington, Beth Doty, Bill Huver, Branda and Jack Robinson, George Standish, Todd Swain and Melissa Swain.