Strolling On the Ground with Eyes in the Sky – ClovisFest

Sep 7, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Strolling The Town, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Tom Sims has been covering the Tower District and Downtown Fresno for KRL for the past couple of years so we have decided to turn this into a monthly column which will go up every first weekend of the month. We are also adding to the mix articles on Old Town Clovis. We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling Through Town!

I vividly remember the first time I saw them. They filled the firmament over my head. My wife had called for me in the unmistakable and unambiguous voice that demanded I come. It was her positive and excited voice, but it was clear and urgent: “Come quick!”

I ran to the yard and looked up to behold a celebration of joy. It was a party in air, a sky-scape of colors and shapes. I was impressed and curious.

The balloons had arrived and I was in their path. It was impossible to ignore their audacious and flamboyant call to attention; I loved it.

I still love it – especially now that I know it is an annual event with a purpose. It is coming again on September 21 and 22 –the 39th Annual Table Mountain Casino ClovisFest and the Kaiser Permanente Hot Air Balloon Fun Fly!

It all starts in Old Town Clovis, a place known for its celebrations of life. The party impresarios are the fun folks at the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. Early in the morning, the crowds will gather at the Rodeo Grounds as the hot air balloons begin their ascent. Onlookers are advised to come long before the 7:00 a.m. take-off. Inflation begins at 6:00 a.m. and it is the sort of inflation that the Clovis economy relishes.

Balloon Launch 2010

Someone may shout, “Look, up in the sky; it’s a bird; it’s a plane! No it’s …. A BALLOON!”

I am sure that if Superman were available, he’d show up!

As the high flyers move from the center of town, visitors will be free to browse over 250 craft and food booths. They will enjoy the festive company of thousands–crowds in Clovis are never hoards. They are some of the friendliest and happiest people to ever gather in a relatively small space to enjoy the waning days of summer and the early days of fall in a festival of community.

ClovisFest 2010 Crowd

Not every vendor gets selected for the Fest. Thousands of business people must fit into hundreds of spaces in select categories. Fran Blackney, event coordinator, says: “We are looking forward to another great ClovisFest event starting with the hot air balloons … people can come and visit all the craft booths. This year, we are especially excited about all the street entertainment we are going to have.”

The variety of such entertainment is remarkable. Blackney says it ranges “from pro-wrestlers to roller derby queens and a skateboard exhibition. For the complete entertainment schedule, visit and click on the ClovisFest picture.”

According to the official news release, “On Fourth Street you’ll find the North American Wrestlers (NAW) a big hit in past years. Herb Bauer will present The Board Room, part of the King of the Valley Skate Board Comp Series. The invitation only finals will be held on Sunday, the 22. Over on Fifth Street, performers will include the Central CA Area Derby (CCAD), aka Roller Derby Girls, Mile High Karate, Flamenco Dancers and Cynthia Merrill’s Ballroom Dancing on Sunday.”

Fran, herself, is arranging for some of the food which she describes as “olden goodies sprinkled with new tastes.”

What is a festival without food? What is food without ice cream and egg rolls?

She points out, “Something new this year is Bratwurst in the Budweiser Beer Garden that will once again be providing delicious brews.”

For those of us who don’t imbibe there is plenty of Pepsi and water! Every time someone buys a Pepsi, a local non-profit organization benefits! Blackney told me that the little ones will love the Pumpkin Patch at The Children’s Holiday Playground. There will be rides and games and even a “Summer Santa.” Characters from Something Enchanted and Dreams Come True Entertainment will be on hand throughout the day, meeting children and roaming throughout the festival.

“Back by popular demand,” she says, “will be Henry the Brave Little Tractor.” Children will recognize the book title and will swarm around him for pictures as they purchase his books.

The Festival itself begins at 8:00 and closes at 5:00 each day. Pets are not allowed, but people are. Admission is free and so is parking.

Sponsors include: Table Mountain Casino, Bud Light, Pepsi, Clear Channel Radio, home of Power Talk, Kaiser Permanente, Airgas, the Fresno Bee, CVES, KAIL Fresno, Alert-O-Lite, Clawson Honda, ARTCO and Ad-Venture Video.

At some point in the morning, I expect to hear the high pitch voice of my grandson screaming, “Grandpa, Grandpa, Grandpa! Come Quick! Look at the sky! BALLOONS!”

First Balloon in the air 2010

Then, I’ll know it is time to get dressed, get in the car, and drive in to Old Town for breakfast and strolling around town! There, we will join 70,000 of our closest friends and neighbors and we may even see some folks we know.

We may even run into some of you!

Make sure you stop and say, “Howdy, neighbor!”

For complete information visit

Last minute vendors can try their luck at

To interact and build up excitement, visit their Facebook page at:

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You can find more of Tom’s column here. Keep up with Tom’s writing and “strolling” by following him on Twitter @tomsims

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.



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