Citizen Potawatomi Nation Gears Up For Fifth Annual Fireflight Balloon Fest

Friday, August 12th 2022, 9:09 pm


For the fifth year, balloons are taking flight in Shawnee. The Fire Lake Fireflight Balloon Fest is kicking off Friday August 12. Families can enjoy the balloon fest through Saturday evening. 

“It was kind of a vision for tribal leadership to provide an event that is community friendly, family friendly that everyone can just come out and enjoy,” said Kelley Francen, a Balloon Committee Member. 

“This festival is incredible, the community involvement, the way it is organized, the whole thing,” said Chris Sabia, the Balloon Meister for the Fire Lake Fireflight Balloon Fest. 

Members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation wanted to come up with a free event for Oklahomans to enjoy. 

Francen said they were inspired to organize a balloon fest after a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico during the Balloon Fiesta. 

The Fireflight Balloon Fest is welcoming 25 balloons from all over the country this weekend. 

“Balloons light up everyone’s eyes and put a big smile on everyone’s face, it doesn’t matter what age you are that is really what is great about it,” said the Balloon Meister for the event. 

“The best part is the balloon pilots love to invite the kids down on the field with them so the kids can really get up close and personal with the balloons,” said Francen. 

Veteran Pilot Steve Libel is no stranger to the ballooning community, he travels around the world with his Jayhawk balloon. 

“Albuquerque is one of the best places, we were in St. Jean-sur Richelieu in Canada which is just south of Montreal and that was beautiful country to fly,” said the Balloon Pilot. 

But right now, he’s in Shawnee giving balloon rides with the other pilots at the festival. 

“The people that go for a ride, the enjoyment that they get out of it and the reactions that they have to it,” said Libel. 

People can also enjoy carnival rides and an indoor expo. The festival will wrap up Saturday night with live music and a balloon glow. 

“Last year our event was recognized as the outstanding event through the Oklahoma tourism industry, so we are really proud of that,” said Francen. 

After 38 years and more than 1,000 hours in the air, Steve is retiring this year. 

A bittersweet feeling as he ascends over Shawnee Oklahoma one last time. 

“We have made friends all over the United States and it’s just…I’m going to miss them,” said Libel. 


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