Music, dancing and hundreds of balloons are all staples of the International Cantoya Balloon Festival in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, but for the festival’s 14th edition, coming up on July 19-21, a more sobering theme will take center stage.
Joel Elías, executive director of CantoyaFest, explained that part of each day of the festival, which will fill the sky with over 500 decorated lanterns, will be dedicated to raising consciousness about endangered animals and the environment with a series of talks.
The festival will also accept donations from the public for a non-profit organization dedicated to endangered species.
Elías told a press conference that this year’s CantoyaFest will be big: more than 300 masters in the craft of cantoya balloons will travel from Mexico City, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Oaxaca, México state, Guerrero and Yucatán to join those from Michoacán.
International craftsmen from Colombia, El Salvador, Brazil and France will also be present. In all, the festival expects to welcome 90,000 visitors this year and to generate 70 million pesos (US $3.7 million) in economic spillover.
On the first day, festival-goers will be invited to form teams and make their own cantoya balloons and discover first-hand the time and dedication that goes into each sky lantern. Later, the festival will culminate in a cantoya balloon contest, with sky lanterns of all imaginable colors and sizes.
Other activities will include an exhibit of specially decorated balloons in the Gertrudis Bocanegra Library, a special show for deaf attendees, children’s activities, workshops, food and drink, artisanal products and performances by 18 bands.
Elías expressed satisfaction with the festival’s preparations and added that organizers had taken special measures to ensure that this year’s edition did not pose a risk to the environment, including stipulations that all of the balloons at the festival must be 100% biodegradable and made from recycled materials.
“I think that in these 14 years we have greatly improved many of the activities and no one could possibly get bored. We have an incredible lake, and we’re trying to rescue it. We also have an unparalleled set of activities, and we only hold the festival during the rainy season to avoid any sort of environmental accident.”
Pátzcuaro Mayor Víctor Báez assured that the festival will have all of the necessary security in place to deal with any possible fires.