CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Despite poor weather over the weekend, organizers of the Champaign County Balloon Festival called their inaugural event a success.

“Overall, we were pleased with the event, especially for a first of its kind,” said festival spokesperson Chris Diana. “We were able to introduce something to Champaign County folks that hasn’t been here before and apparently, they liked the idea of it.”

Diana estimated that between 8,000 and 9,000 people attended the two-day event at Dodds Park. While rain on Friday kept a lot of people home, sunshine on Saturday brought them out.

“Saturday was just a tremendous response. We had people everywhere and they were still coming in as it was getting dark,” Diana said. “The biggest joy that we had was the people loved what they could see of the balloons. They loved the glow Saturday night, they enjoyed their time at the carnival, the kids had a blast with the kids tent and carnival, blowing bubbles and you name it. It was a great time for kids. There was tons of good food everybody enjoyed themselves.”

Diana said the only drawback was having to cancel tethered balloon rides for children with disabilities. Rain on Friday and strong winds on Saturday kept the balloons grounded.

Taking what they learned this year, Diana said festival organizers are already planning for next year.

“No question there will be a second annual one,” Diana said. “You learn all of the things you want to do more of, do less of, and we now have some expectations for the future.”

Diana said the next festival will take place around the same time of year because September is the most stable month for weather in central Illinois.

“Didn’t turn out for us to be that way those two particular days, but we’ll probably stick with the fall because that’s the best time,” Diana said.