A near-perfect weekend of weather helped draw tens of thousands of people to Howell for the 35th annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest.

Michelle Tokan is the Michigan Challenge Director and tells WHMI that with the exception of some early Friday rain, the excellent weather kept attendance at a good level, even with a new pricing model this year that charged everyone $5 to enter, but made parking free. "It worked out really well. People understood we had additional expenses this year and we didn't receive very many complaints here during Balloonfest weekend. So we're glad people still came out to support the Balloonfest. We felt that $5 per person, per day is a very reasonable amount with free parking and children 3 and under free and our goal is to sustain and enhance the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest."

In all, 38 balloons participated in the challenge portion of the event; competing in multiple flights to drop beanbags on targets that were set up at the main launch field at the Howell High School complex and another at the Chemung Hills Golf Club. The winner was Larry Coan of New Hudson, who took the title with his balloon “Superfluous” (second picture) which was sponsored by Thai Summit America. The mass launches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights also went off without a hitch, much to the enjoyment of the thousands of spectators who turned out to watch. (JB/JK)