Several balloons prepare for take-off during the 15th annual Balloon Glow in 2021. (Photo submitted by Jackie Barger/Finley River Park)

Two events are happening near the Finley River this Father’s Day Weekend that has historically seen thousands of attendees. An evening filled with hot-air balloons, a rubber ducky race and a carnival atmosphere. 

These are the 16th Annual GLOW presented by Ozark Chevrolet to benefit Children’s Smile Center and the Christian County Children’s Charity Sertoma Club Duck Race Festival.

Balloon GLOW for the Children’s Smile Center is scheduled Friday, June 17, 2022. The event is free to the public, and begins at approximately 8:45 p.m. at the Finley River Park in downtown Ozark.

Just after sundown, several hot-air balloons are let loose into the sky while remaining tethered to the ground. Guests can enjoy a show up an hour and a half of lights shining in the night.

Jackie Barger, executive director of the Children’s Smile Center, said in a press release to follow the Children’s Smile Center Facebook page for updates depending on the weather. 

Barger said weather is monitored up to minutes before inflation, with pilots basing their decision to inflate based on patterns, fronts and wind speed. 

According to Barger, recent crowds have been estimated at 12,000 people. Barger said getting the number of guests and vehicles in one place is a “challenge,” but encouraged guests to attend and take in the scenery of the venue.

“The GLOW is a fun event for all ages,” Barger said. “Rarely do people have the opportunity to see the balloons close up, but here you can visit with the pilots and then watch an amazing light show.” 

Proceeds from the event will go towards dental care for children 1 to 19 and pregnant women covered by Missouri Medicaid throughout the Christian, Stone, Taney, Dade, Barry and Lawrence Counties. Children’s Smile Center has clinics located in Ozark, Branson West and Aurora.

Live music, food and drink booths, vendors and other carnival-style attractions are available for families to enjoy for a fee.

Rubber ducky race?

While the Balloon GLOW event is overseen by Children’s Smile Center, fundraising for the event comes from the 4C Sertoma Club. The club will also be in attendance to oversee the duck racing festival.

Bradley Jackson, chairman of the 4C Sertoma Club, said this year marks the 21st Duck Race Festival. Jackson became chairman of the club seven years ago, and wanted to interact with the community in a deeper way than just straight fundraising.

Jackson said he made the decision to delegate to other clubs, allowing them to partner and run their own fundraising events during the duck race.

“They could continue to advance it versus our club of 35 people,” Jackson said. “We can stretch a little bit since we’ve started to give away the weekend away to other clubs so that they can get to even build on it and advertise.”

While the race is free for public viewing, attendees are able to purchase tickets in the form of a rubber ducky. These ducks will be raced upstream, with one of them being marked and winning the buyer a 2022 Chevrolet Silverado. Jackson said the ducks are able to go upstream against the current thanks to the wind on the surface of the Finley River.

According to Jackson, this year has seen around 8,000 ducks be purchased by attendees, with plans for 10,000. The money then goes back into helping the Children’s Smile Center as well as various other prizes.

Jackson said the event is “awesome,” and thanked the other members of the Sertoma Club for helping maintain it.

Doors to the Balloon Glow on Friday night open at 5:00 p.m. with the duck race happening at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Tinsley Merriman

Tinsley Merriman is a general assignment intern at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He’s currently a senior at Missouri State University studying journalism, and most recently worked as section editor of Campus Life for the student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Tinsley Merriman