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Veterans’ group seeks free use of park for balloon festival

A local advocacy group for veterans seemed to aim for the stratosphere this week when it appeared before the county’s board of commissioners to promote its annual balloon festival.

The members Graham-based Alcovets ultimately promised the county’s governing board that there will be more high-flying fun than ever before when this year’s three-day festival kicks off at Cedarock Park on September 13.

“This year we’re going to have 30 balloons,” declared Bobby Chin, a member of Alcovets who addressed the commissioners along with several of his colleagues during a designated public comment period on Monday. “We’ll have both tethered and untethered balloon rides – weather permitting – live entertainment, a kids zone, vendors, and food trucks.”

Graham city councilman Bobby Chin and Graham resident Chuck Talley, both active members in Alcovets, urged the county commissioners to grant their organization special consideration for the use of Cedar Rock Park, or potentially to exempt the group from the park’s fees altogether.

Chin, who also serves as a member of Graham’s city council, went on to note that the festival’s organizations plan to pack the schedule with extra ground-level activities in order to give patrons something to do in the down time between balloon flights.

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Chin and his colleagues went on to assure the commissioners that their three-day blowout won’t leave behind a scene of desolation at Cedarock Park.

Chuck Talley, a fellow Alcovets member whose wife, Jennifer, serves as Graham’s mayor, was especially emphatic about the group’s good intentions toward the county-owned venue. He pointed out that, in previous years, Alcovets has made various improvements to the park’s infrastructure – such as running electrical power to some of its historic buildings.

Talley added that he and his colleagues remained at Cedarock Park for days after they wrapped up last year’s festivities in order to repair erosion and resod the grounds of the park.

“Like we had said,” he added, “we left the park in better shape than when we showed up.”

Talley’s account of these good works was nevertheless a prelude to a request that may have sucked some of the air out of his organization’s plug for the balloon festival.

In the end, Richard Shevlin, the vice chairman of Alcovets’ board, asked the commissioners to waive the $4,000 fee that the county would ordinarily charge for the group’s use of Cedarock Park. Should this prove too much for the county, Shevlin suggested that the group should at least have some say over how the proceeds of this fee will be spent in the future.

“We would like to see some kind of amphitheater named after the veterans of Alamance County somewhere in the park.”

– Alcovets member Richard Shevlin

“We would like to see some kind of amphitheater named after the veterans of Alamance County somewhere in the park,” he added. “This is just something we would like the board to consider.”

The county, for its part, customarily plows payments from facility rentals into its general fund, where they comingle with the proceeds of other taxes and fees. Yet, the prospect of forgiving the fee altogether got a bit of a boost from John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners.

A ballooning enthusiast in his own right, Paisley instructed one of the county’s assistant managers to study the organization’s request for a waiver “in light of all the work that they’re doing and the monies that they’re donating to Alamance County.”

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