Helium Shortage Won't Keep Parade Balloons Down - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Helium Shortage Won't Keep Parade Balloons Down

Updated: Nov 19, 2013 10:37 PM

The cold temps and brisk winds in the forecast for this year's Festival of Trees Parade in Davenport won't change plans for the annual balloon filled celebration.

Organizers say Saturday's parade should go off without a hitch.

The forecast at this point calls for winds in the 15-20 mile per hour range. The winds only become a safety issue at 23 miles per hour sustained with 34 mile per hour gusts, according to the balloon manufacturer. Only then would plans for carrying balloons in this weekend's parade need to change.

Again, parade organizers say that should not be an issue, and expectations are very high for a great parade this year:

"You can expect a lot of excitement, a lot of people along the streets of Davenport, a lot of kids just really getting excited," said Mel Drucker, Festival of Trees Parade manager.

There's a lot for them to be excited about, including bands, performances, and plenty of big balloons. Twenty-four of those balloons will be making their way through the streets along the parade route this year, including a handful of new ones.

Even an ongoing global helium shortage can't keep this balloon-filled celebration down.

This time last year, organizers were working up to the wire to sort out helium supply problems. This year, they took steps early to avoid having that issue again.

"I know earlier on there was some concern that there might be helium problems," Drucker said, "but it all came through in the end and we're going to get the helium we need and everything will go on fine."

Some local businesses are not so lucky.

Sue Cunningham, owner of West End Gardens Florist in Davenport, says the helium shortage has taken a big bite out of her bottom line.

"About 25 percent of my business ran on helium," Cunningham said. "We did a lot of arranging and arches and festivities with the balloons for table centerpieces for balloon releases."

Over the span of just one year, Cunningham says the price of helium nearly doubled, and she was forced to absorb the cost or risk pricing herself out of the market.

Then, a year and a half ago, she stopped being able to get it all together.

Hospitals and manufacturers get priority when it comes to what helium supplies are available, so Cunningham's helium supplier was unable to renew her contract.

"We are not able to do bulk balloons at this time at all," she said.

"An occasional happy anniversary or a birthday balloon, whatever the occasion is, we can accommodate. We can also do air filled balloons incorporated into our arrangements as well," she explained.

Cunningham says she doesn't expect the helium shortage to end anytime soon - if it ever does.

"All we can do is hope for the best," she said.

Festival of Trees Parade organizers, glad for the helium they can get, are hoping for the best, too:

"We're looking for a good day, an exciting parade, and it's going to go off fine. It will be excellent," Drucker said.

The parade kicks off at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. Our live coverage begins at 10 a.m.

Volunteers are still needed to help fill balloons on Friday night, and in light of the colder weather, organizers say the more hands the better.

Anyone who would like to help can come to 3rd Street between Iowa and LeClaire streets starting at 5:30 Friday evening.

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