RIPON — Skies over Ripon will be colored with kites on Saturday rather than the balloons that annually hover there on Labor Day weekend.
That's because the Color the Skies festival at Mistlin Sports Park has been scaled back this year because of ongoing construction of nearby softball fields. Balloons are expected to return for next year's event.
Three large hot air balloons will be on display beginning at 6:30 a.m. at the Color the Skies Kite Show and Rise.Shine.Give.RUN. But there will not be any balloon rides offered this year. The balloons will be on display only as long as weather permits, according to the event website.
Safety concerns for balloonists and skydivers who perform at the event as well as for festivalgoers prompted the change, Jessica Coleman, president and founder of Color the Skies Inc., said in an email.
Those safety concerns also kept organizers from expanding the fest in any way this year, she said.
But, "with every challenge there is a silver lining," Coleman said in the email. A lighter-than-usual festival is allowing organizers a transitional year to adjust and prepare for future growth of the event.
Color the Skies is a fund-raiser for Children's Hospital Central California, located in Madera. Coleman said the event has raised more than $160,000 for the hospital over the past seven years.
"I always joke that Color the Skies has raised more awareness than dollars for Children's Hospital Central California. And it's true," Coleman said. "However, the goal of the hospital is not to make money, it's to make world-class, quality and affordable medical care available to our valley's children."
Shadow Chase Running Club is again at the festival this year to orchestrate 5K and 10K runs, which begin at 8 a.m. A children's fun run begins at 9:30 a.m.
Winners will receive medals and other prizes, including cash and a three-month pass to Brenda Athletic Clubs.
The kite show begins at 10 a.m. with kites and inflatables in an assortment of colors, shapes, sizes and styles, both flying and on display. Festivalgoers can take their own kites or buy them on site, where expert flyers will be on hand to offer tips and advice.
For the kids, there will be candy drops and kite races. A carnival will be on the grounds beginning at 9 a.m. and food vendors will be available, as well as a farmers market.
Mistlin Sports Park is off Highway 99 at Jack Tone and River roads in Ripon. Festival hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The festival and parking are free. For more, call (209) 599-4483 or go to www.colortheskies.com.