District 7570 1st Rotary Day of 2014-15

District 7570 1st Rotary Day of 2014-15
 Lexington, Virginia, USA

As the sun came up, the sky was filled with beautiful hot air balloons over the historic city of Lexington, Virginia. It is July 3-6 and the Rotary Club of Lexington Sunrise is having its 18th annual 4th of July Celebration and Balloon Rally. The celebration, a fundraiser for the Rotary club and community service event for the Lexington/ Rockbridge area, is truly a community event. The Sunrise Rotary Club coordinates the event which is supported by forty-five businesses, local colleges, local governments and individual donors.


During the four day events six balloon launches are scheduled with 10-12 balloons participating in each launch. There were also three tethered balloon ride sessions scheduled. The balloons are all piloted by licensed commercial pilots. The balloons are launched for the parade ground at the Virginia Military Institute and fly away at the will of the prevailing winds. The balloon flights normally last 1-1 ½ hours depending on the weather.

Not-for-profit organizations from around the area are offered space along the parade ground to highlight their missions and recruit support for their causes. Food vendors are also present offering the latest in street fair cuisine; from hot dogs and hamburgers to gyros and pizza, to kettle corn and cotton candy. The Rotary club offers a Bar-B-Q to the public, which is free all the donors.

The Sunrise Rotary uses the event to highlight the accomplishment of their club and of Rotary International. Banners are displayed everywhere. They set up a tent to hold a display of local accomplishments and highlighted Rotary International by featured an iron lung and a Shelter Box. The Shelter Box was set up and all the parts displayed. The iron lung had a doll in the machine representing a child with polio. Both prompted questions from the public. The club sold American flags for a dollar which is roughly the cost of one vaccination and raised $583. They also started a program of recruiting volunteers from the community who did not want to commit to Rotary membership but were interested in helping the club with their different projects and fundraisers.

During the day a children’s tent offers games, face painting, and crafts to the children attending. Outside the tent blow up rides are available for 3 rides for a dollar. Different rides are set up for the different age groups. These activities are surrounded by a family atmosphere, as families spread out their blankets and enjoy a picnic and individual family fun.  Local bands, including the Virginia National Guard Band, entertain during the evenings with a verity of music focused on our folk and bluegrass heritage. On the 4th of July as darkness looms, fireworks explode over the ramparts of the Virginia Military barracks presenting a fantastic display of patriotic colors and illumination. What better place to remember those who sacrificed all to gain our freedom and those who continue to defend the principles of our founding fathers.


Coordinated by the Lexington Sunrise Rotary the event has become a tradition. Children who grew up enjoying the event and have moved away, return with their children to witness a truly small town America celebration of the 4th of July. Business give in-kind contributions as well as financial contributions to make the event successful. Our local CornerStone Bank anchors our funding with a major gift with additional financial coming from merchants. The two local colleges support with their physical property, equipment and manpower. The City of Lexington provides personnel to set up, tear down and clean up the site after the event. A local print shop, the visitors’ center, local radio station and the newspaper help spread the word of the event through posters, banners and local broadcasts and interviews. It is estimated that 85% of the local community witness or participate in the event. By the end of the 6th of July the community knows and appreciates the efforts of the Rotary Club of Lexington Sunrise.