Lush wilderness and unique activities are just a few of the things to look forward to when you choose Monroe, Wisconsin, as your next early summer vacation destination. Commonly referred to as the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the World”, this community is known for award winning cheeses and beers. Monroe is the county seat for Green County and during the last census the population was nearly 11,000 people.
Monroe is the quintessential midwestern small town with clean streets and welcoming attitudes setting the tone for the community. You’ll find a wide range of activities to enjoy while you're visiting this great community. The area is home to high-level distilleries and breweries that offer tours, tastings and more. The National Historic Cheesemaking Center is a fun way to learn about the history of cheese in the Monroe community. You’ll also find some great cheese shops and producers, where you can find just about any type of cheese you can imagine. The local parks are clean, green, and perfect for an assortment of outdoor activities. If you're a fan of history, the town is home to some can't-miss historical sites such as: Goetz Theater, Turner Hall of Monroe, Green County Courthouse and the list goes on. Monroe is also home to a series of great community events and gatherings like Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival.
For around three decades the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival has attracted a dedicated following. This event takes the unique hybrid of hot air balloons and great blues music, then combines them into a one-of-a-kind experience. There will be a car show and craft fair taking place as well. Food and refreshments will be available in the food area, with 10 different vendors serving up a variety of tasty options. The entire event is a benefit for the ARC of Green County, so you know it's all for a good cause. This festival has something for everyone, but don't forget to plan in advance as lodging fills up this time of year. We got the chance to interview Nick Fassler, Coordinator of the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival, to talk about the event.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
NF: The Balloon rally has been running about 30 years and this year the festival takes place on June 17-18. Last year was the first time it was not held as the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival. Instead, Honda held what they called their Honda Grand Prix and 40 to 60 balloons attended. The number of attendees was roughly 5000 people last year. This year we are expecting a much higher attendance number with the return of our festival.
The demographic of the crowd can vary a lot, as there is one crowd that comes to watch the balloon portion of the event. Also, the live blues music draws in a totally different crowd to hear the great blues acts that are scheduled.
RAL: What makes the event unique?
We have a craft show where vendors are selling some unique handmade creations, and you might really enjoy the car show. Each year the auto show brings over a 100 different kinds of autos from around the region. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and the Peanut Mobile will also be on hand for a Saturday display.
RAL: Walk me through a typical day at the event.
On Friday the gates open at 4:00 pm and the balloons launch at 6:00 pm. The pilots will be back at 7:00 pm for demonstrations. As the sun goes down, the balloons set up for an evening glow. The first of two blues bands start up at 7:00 pm and wrap it up at 10:30 pm.
Be there early on Saturday as the gate opens at 5:00 am, and at 6:00 am, the balloon launch begins. You can enjoy a pancake breakfast from 6-10:00 am, and later in the day we have at least 10 food vendors that will have something to tease your palate. The crafts start at 9:00 am and go all day. Registration for the car show starts at 9:00 am and the show runs from 11-4:00 pm. A Gran Fondue Cycling event is held outside of the rally and will start promptly at 8:00 am at the Monroe clinic. The cycling event is a fundraiser for the Monroe Clinic & Hospital Foundation Cancer Fund.
At 2:30 pm on Saturday, the Left Wing Bourbon Band will get the blues music started. Every 2 hours another band will begin their performance. The Jimmies are the second act, followed by Brent Johnson and the Call UP. Last but not least, the Nick Moss Band from Chicago will perform.
The balloons on Saturday will follow the same afternoon schedule as Friday.
RAL: Tell me about the local lodging situation.
There are at three motels in Monroe and more in the surrounding areas. Our website lists many bed and breakfast places throughout Green County. There may be as many as 5,000 people coming to the Monroe area during the weekend of the event, so make sure to plan ahead.
RAL: What does the event mean to the community?
From hot air balloons to unique handmade art, there is something for everyone at the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival. This year the entire event is a fundraiser for ARC of Green County. The ARC is an organization that supports people with handicaps and disabilities.
Our event is a popular one in Green County. People come from far and wide to witness the spectacle of so many hot air balloons taking off into the blue. Add in some great blues music and you have a can't-miss event. Come down and join us; you won’t be disappointed!
For more information about the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival, please visit their website.