Helium Shortage Threatens Local Businesses and Events - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Helium Shortage Threatens Local Businesses and Events

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The Festival of Trees is set to kick off this Saturday with the annual balloon parade that almost wasn't. 

"There's been a helium shortage throughout the country," Staff Director Deb McDaniel says, "It's been every year for about the last three years, and this year it hit its peak."

Organizers were working down to the wire to find a solution, and a supplier finally came through. But helium prices are up 40 to 50 percent, almost $400 a tank when it used to be between $80 and $90, so the parade will have to do more with less.

"We will be filling a few of the chambers of the balloons with regular air just to save on cost, it won't affect how the balloons fly," McDaniel says, "It'll just save cost." 

In Eldridge, Lyn Byard and her husband have been running a balloon business out of their home for over 30 years, doing balloons for events like the Bix and Race For the Cure. They say two thirds of their business depends on helium.  

"This is the first really scary time," Byard says, "We're just hoping it ends up working itself out." 

Byard says they've been getting by filling up balloons with air too, but those balloons don't float so its hard to do some arrangements.  

"I love the helium, there's nothing better than a balloon floating up above a child, but we're all going to have to change our attitudes and what we've known in the past," she says. 

It's unsure when the helium supply will completely run out; some estimate less than five years, meaning bigger problems for the future. 

"It's anticipated to not stop, next year it could get worse," McDaniel says.

"It'll definitely change my business," Byard says, "We'll just work to come up with other avenues."

The annual Festival of Trees kicks off this Saturday with the parade at 11a.m.

For more information on the parade or program, visit the Festival of Trees website: http://quadcityarts.com/festoftrees.asp