Take a deep breath

Celebrate Air Fest with balloon, bicycles and billboard contest

By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Breathing in the beauty of spring will have a serious side for a couple of hours on Saturday, April 14.

At the front of the campus at Maryville College, Blount County Air Fest 2007 will offer visitors a mixture of good fun and serious learning. The fun part will be the hot air balloon (with tethered rides, weather permitting), the remote control airplane show, bike rides and a billboard contest.

The serious part of the mixture will be the educational opportunities to learn about clean air.

It’s all part of Blount County Air Fest 2007

While everyone will have fun, Bob Booker hopes they’ll also learn how to create cleaner air. This is the third year for the
event, and the first year it has ever been held at the college.

The event, from 5 to 7 p.m. on April 14, is presented by the Chamber of Commerce Air Quality Improvement Committee.

Committee chairman Bob Booker of Denso Manufacturing said the event is important in light of the concern for cleaner air in the Great Smoky Mountains and across the region.

Booker said air quality also is important to the Chamber, as it is to anyone who lives and works in Blount County. "It affects our quality of life everyday. Many factors contribute to air quality, and what we’re trying to do is focus on those factors we can control," Booker said.

Booker said some factors, like weather, can’t be controlled. Others, such as car pooling rather than riding alone, walking or riding a bicycle rather than driving a car and stopping fuel fill ups when the pump handle clicks instead of topping off the tank are affected by residents’ behaviors.

"There are things we can do to help improve air quality," Booker said.

"Weather permitting, we’ll have a hot air balloon and some rides," he added.

There also will be information booths from a variety of organizations such as Smart Trips, Green Power Switch, Keep Blount Beautiful, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Maryville College. "We’ll be talking about anything the community can do to help air quality," he said.

Booker said there will be remote control airplane show and the National Guard will have a basketball machine. Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham also will be on hand to recognize the winner of an air quality billboard design contest among students from William Blount and Maryville middle schools. The winning design will be displayed on a Blount County billboard on April 25.

The committee is encouraging participants in the Air Fest 2007 festival to get in the spirit even before the event begins.
They are offering an alternative, fun way to get to Air Fest through the Bike Pool.

Groups and individuals can bring their bikes to one of two different locations on the Greenbelt -- the Bicentennial Greenbelt
Park adjacent to the Blount County Library or the West side of Montvale Road at the bridge crossing Pistol Creek. From there, the groups will caravan to the Air Fest site.

"That has the potential to be a real good opportunity for people to bring bikes, their families and children, and everyone ride up to Maryville College together,," said Booker. "hat could be really fun."

Motor Mile car dealers also will have hybrid vehicles on display, and there will be free ice cream donated by Wal-Mart, free canned water donated by Alcoa, Inc., and Dominoes Pizza will be selling pizza, Booker said.

If there is inclement weather, the festival moves to the other side of the campus at McArthur Pavilion. An inclement
weather line (865-977-2382) will be activated after 12 p.m. on April 14 in case of changes.

Booker thanked the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Maryville College, the Maryville and Alcoa city governments and Blount County government for their help in making the event happen.

Booker said sharing information about air pollution is important, and this festival shares information with younger and older people alike.

"Air pollution is not going to go away. It’s like conserving water and protecting landfills. It’s all part of trying to leave a
healthy, clean environment for future generations," he said.

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