Balloon Madness


Balloon Fest 2003, an annual event held at the Wiley Post Airport near Bethany, Okla., late this summer to raise money for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, was hardly a traditional event in the sense that the main focus wasn't on a stage — giant balloons were the obvious centerpiece. However, for those on the ground, the festival in early August also offered a lot of live entertainment. Some of that entertainment posed interesting PA sound reinforcement issues, given the venue was little more than a wide-open airfield.

Organizers hired David Carr of Big Picture Presentations to organize the technical specifics of staging events at the airport. He turned to local vendors Miller Pro Audio and Toucan Productions to address the show's sound and lighting needs. Much of that work, says Carr, was reasonably straightforward, but placement of the stage (a 40'×30' mobile stage with a roof and sound wings provided by Oklahoma City's Brewer Entertainment) where the main entertainment took place and design of the PA system were trickier.

“The entertainment stage was an issue because in the past, we've placed it pointing west, toward the balloon field, and the PA from those activities would sometimes interfere with sound from the stage,” says Carr. “This year, we moved the stage and pointed it south and west, and we took greater care to make sure there were no speakers pointing at one another. The sound quality was therefore much better during performances.”

The PA system, according to Carr, had two main functions: to make sure the public could hear announcements during balloon flights, and also to make sure the balloon operators could clearly hear instructions out on the field.

“It was a field about 800ft. wide and 800ft. deep, so that is a very large area to cover with PA,” says Carr. “We built scaffolding towers and set the PA on top of them, with left and right stacks to the east and west, and each tower using PAS RS2.2 cabinets [powered by Crest amps]. That was a good system for this kind of application, and we used the speakers to their maximum potential. The problem, though, was the fact that with such a large space, we ideally would have liked to have a delay tower further out in the field for people far away. Because of the presence of the balloons, though, we were restricted where we could put the towers.”

A news and marketing video on the event was shot by another local A/V vendor — Hartland Productions, a division of Ford Audio-Video.

Send potential submissions for the CenterStage column to Michael Goldman, SRO senior editor, at [email protected].