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Crowds overwhelm balloon fest at race track

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The first balloon festival at the Autodromo was more popular than anticipated. Photo: Sipse

Paraíso, Yucatán — Organizers of the first-ever Balloon Festival at the new racetrack between Mérida and Progreso last weekend expected about 20,000 attendees. 

But more than five times that amount showed up Friday and Saturday, when El Festival Internacional del Globo en Yucatán activities peaked. Popular singer Aleks Syntek headlined a concert on stage, a major draw for fans, in addition to workshops, food trucks and fireworks.

The FIGY was first planned for an influx of hundreds, and after shows were added, they realized more might possibly show up, according to Sipse. In the end, 103,000 people tried to get in, and 33,000 of them were turned away when the site reached capacity. Many never got close to the event, stuck an average of two hours on the highway. Some walked two or three miles to the gate, leaving their cars behind. 

One media source speculates that a first-time cultural event has never before attracted such a massive crowd. But social media has been on fire all week with complaints of disorganization and even misrepresentation: 35 balloons were on view, short of the 60 that were promised.

Out-of-state visitors drove in from mainly from Campeche, Tabasco and Quintana Roo, crowding the new Yucatán Race Track

A few balloons were allowed to fly on Sunday after both winds and crowds died down. Photo: Sipse

The weather did not cooperate. To the disappointment of many, high winds kept all the balloons grounded until the last day of the event. On Sunday morning, to the delight of the attendees who remained, eight balloons and a zeppelin were allowed to hover over the autodromo

Ticket holders who were not allowed to enter the grounds were promised refunds. Adult tickets cost 65 pesos.

The festival committee, running out of parking by Friday night, had to improvise transportation alternatives. Shuttles from the Coliseo were quickly organized.

Trouble was brewing even before the event began. A permit snafu kept the entire festival in doubt in the days leading up to the weekend. Meanwhile, organizers of a similar event in León hinted to the media that they might sue FIGY for plagiarism. 

Source: Press Release, Sipse, Progreso Hoy

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