In 1986, organizers with United Way of Cleveland thought they had the perfect idea to generate a little publicity and create a beautiful spectacle in the process. With a crowd of volunteers working all hours, they filled 1.5 million helium balloons, and released them all at once. Unfortunately, they had no idea the terrible consequences they would unleash by doing so, and their tragic mistake led to the deaths of two people and millions of dollars in damages through lawsuits.
To get a sense of how the day felt, watch this video clip of TV news footage taken on the day of the Cleveland Balloon fest in 1986.
While the sight of 1.5 million balloons rising to the sky must have been an incredible sight to behold, the outcome was far from what they had intended. Two deaths, millions in lawsuits, and a devastating environmental impact.
It’s a tragic lesson, but definitely a cautionary tale worth sharing.
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