Watch 1.5 Million Balloons Terrorize Cleveland in the 1986 Balloonfest Disaster

Article by: Emily Ward|@_drawylime

Mon April 24, 2017 | 15:45 PM

Looks nice, right? Balloons of every imaginable color, drifting over the Cleveland skyline, all in the name of a world record attempt that would bring exposure to a charity (The United Way). Unfortunately, they did not get the type of exposure they were looking for.

The discordant and disorderly bunch of helium balloons (1.5 million, to be exact), were blown up by the city's residents and herded under a large net. Although the 1986 Balloonfest had been planned months in advance, the day's weather forecast turned sour, and carrying this off without a hitch was no longer in the cards. Organizers released the balloons early, and the disaster began.

The netting that contained the balloons snagged on a tall building in Downtown Cleveland, and the colorful captives were released from their shackles. Skyscrapers be damned; the 1.5 million balloons flew everywhere, and the sky was a candy-colored nightmare. The break sent balloons drifting over highways, onto Cleveland's airport tarmac (where flights were temporarily grounded), and into Lake Erie, which hindered the search for two missing men whose boat had capsized and who were later found dead.

Earlier this season, we wrote about people breaking world records at festivals. This is probably the most colorful attempt at record breaking we've seen, but the negative effects this attempt had on the city and its surrounding suburbs were catastrophic. This was an epic misuse of helium tanks as local residents were left to clean up the debris for months afterwards, both on land and by sea.

You live, you learn.