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Come see the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Smokey Bear hot air balloon at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie on Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Day

Contact(s): Veronica Hinke

A very special visitor from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Smokey Bear hot air balloon, will be at the USDA Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie for IL Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Day. The Smokey Bear hot air balloon will be a static display on Highway 53 north of the Iron Bridge Trailhead for just one morning only, Saturday, May 5, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.  


The 145,000 cubic foot, 97-foot tall special shape Aerostar Smokey Bear hot-air balloon is just one of many highlights planned in a full day of fun at Midewin. Come out and touch the balloon’s wicker basket. Get a photo of your family with the giant-sized, inflated Smokey Bear – and then stay for more. Look for the Midewin bison herd. You might even spot a few spring calves. Take a guided hike to visit the remains of a farm and hear a little bit about what life was like along Route 66 many years ago. A Natural Resources Expo will be set up also for this one day only, and you can walk around and talk with representatives and learn more. Pick up the 2018 Midewin Red Carpet Corridor Day button for your collection as a souvenir of this very special day.


The Midewin commemorative buttons will also be available for you to collect at the Midewin Welcome Center, 30239 IL-53, Wilmington, IL 60481. At the Welcome Center you will be able to get a photo of you and your family with a smaller version of the Smokey Bear hot air balloon. Visit with staff there and pick up brochures, maps and guides.


“This very special day may be the only time that you can get up close to look at a hot air balloon that has flown in some of the world’s most beloved balloon festivals,” said Midewin Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang. “What a terrific photo opportunity for the whole family. We hope to see you!”

In 1993, the Smokey Bear Hot Air Balloon debuted at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta as a public/private partnership of volunteers, private sponsors, National Association of State Foresters (NASF), and the USDA Forest Service.