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Popular Hot Air Balloon Event in Ripon Canceled over Lack of Funding

RIPON -- For the first time in 14 years, the skies above San Joaquin County on Labor Day weekend will be empty.

The popular Soaring Over Ripon hot air balloon event, which is a fundraiser for Valley Children's Hospital, has been organized by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce for the last four years.

"You know it's kind of sad because it is such a great event, everybody loves it," Ripon Chamber of Commerce CEO Tamra Spade said. "It was just to the point where we didn’t have there resources or funding coming in to make those donations and thought, OK, we need to reevaluate this."

Spade says the decision to cancel the event was made four months ago, and made the announcement in the local newspaper.

"It’s not something that we want to probably ever get rid of. We want it to grow, we want it to be successful," Spade said.

The founders of the event retired in 2014 and told FOX40 in a statement that they’re disappointed with the chamber and if they had known that the chamber would have handled it so poorly, they wouldn’t have let them take over in the first place:

Color the skies was founded for the purpose of raising awareness and financial support for Valley Children’s Hospital. The founders Greg and Jessica Coleman were unable to keep up with the growth of the festival and retired in 2014. The Ripon Chamber of Commerce asked to keep the legacy alive by continuing Color The Skies. We gave them all of our inventory and resources and of course helped in anyway needed to see that the community could continue to enjoy this regional hot air balloon and Kite festival.

Sadly Tamra Spade of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce did not support Valley Children’s Hospital through this endeavor nor did she do a sufficient job to keep the festival going. This year is the first year in 14 years Ripon and surrounding communities will not enjoy beautiful hot air balloons and whimsical colorful Kites in the skies above Ripon. This is bad enough but to top it all off the Rippon Chamber of Commerce along with its board members have not told the community that there will not be a festival. I’ve been taking phone calls from families vendors and sponsors who all want to support this community event. As a founder of something so special it makes my heart ache that this is happening and I would’ve never agreed to let the Ripon chamber take over color the skies if I would have known that they would handle things so poorly.

Spade says the event will return in 2019.

Valley Children's Hospital also sent FOX40 a statement on Friday:

While we are sad to see this event end, we appreciate the support Soaring Over Ripon has given us over the years. Valley Children’s remains committed to increasing access to families in the region as we get ready to open our new Pelandale Specialty Care Center in Modesto. That will build on the 20 years of outpatient support we’ve given to area families. We are also happy to have our new Color the Skies Guild, which is based in Ripon. Their members are valued supporters and ambassadors of our mission to provide the best healthcare to kids.

Spade adds she and her staff are planning to meet with the organizers behind the Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival next week so they may reevaluate how the event is organized.