Fans wave and cheer as one of the final balloons lifts off from Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston during the 2016 Great Falls Balloon Festival. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal 2016 file photo Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Organizers of the Great Falls Balloon Festival announced Tuesday that the 2021 event has been canceled.

According to a statement on the festival’s Facebook page, “After much deliberation and consideration, we do not feel we can meet our mission goals, respect the current state mandates and reach our sponsorship goals to put on this event given the effects of COVID.”

The statement cited the number of visitors to the park and the challenge to ensure their safety.

The annual event lures about 100,000 visitors annually to Lewiston’s Simard-Payne Memorial Park where dozens of colorful hot-air balloons lift off to float over the Twin Cities.

Last year’s festival was also canceled because of the pandemic. The 2021 event was scheduled for Aug. 20-22.

Balloons rise into the air at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston during the only successful launch of the 2019 Great Falls Balloon Festival on August 18, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What remains to be seen is whether Maine 200, the state’s bicentennial celebration, including the annual parade, will follow suit. According to Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, a decision on that has not been made. Organizers expect to make a final decision the first of May.

“The Maine Bicentennial Commission reps plan to connect with the leadership teams from Lewiston and Auburn late this month to review the feasibility of hosting the parade, and make our go/no-go call on the event,” Kristen Muszynski, director of communications with the Maine Department of the Secretary of State, said. “While we were considering coordinating with the balloon festival as a fun collaboration, its cancellation does not directly impact our decision-making process. We will make a public announcement no later than the first week of May.”

Last year, the decision to postpone the celebration was announced in June, with organizers citing “uncertainty and safety concerns surrounding public gatherings during the current COVID-19 pandemic” as the reason.

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