The birds can’t fly, so they’re bringing in hot air balloons for this year’s Ostrich Festival in Chandler. The 19-year-old fundraiser for the Chandler Chamber of Commerce is scheduled for March 9-11 at the city’s Tumbleweed Park at McQueen and Germann roads.
Festival organizers have teamed up with Sun Lakes Crown Rotary to host a scaleddown version of the former Arizona Balloon Festival, which stopped two years ago after problems with the event’s promoter.
Ballooners won’t be offering rides to the public, but balloon “glows” will go on each night before the scheduled entertainment.
Organizers will keep the balloons far away from the ostriches, however, said chamber president Becky Jackson.
“We’re taken extra, extra, extra precautions to make sure that we’re very respectful of the ostriches,” she said. “It is the Ostrich Festival, so they come first.”
Organizers are being careful because of an incident in southern Arizona in 2002.
Nearly 800 ostriches were injured and had to be euthanized after hot-air balloons caused a flock to stampede at a ranch.
The big birds aren’t the only animal acts scheduled.
The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge will return this year.
The regional contest features four-legged athletes competing in agility, Frisbee catching, dog-diving and other events.
The festival also brought in an exotic petting zoo with camels, zebras and Brahma bulls four years ago when the state banned transporting poultry, including ostriches, into Arizona because of Exotic Newcastle Disease.
The chamber has marketed the event with “the birds are back” ever since. And the exotic petting zoo stayed on.
Birds of a feather
What: 2007 Ostrich Festival
When: March 9-11
Where: Tumbleweed Park, corner of McQueen and Germann roads in Chandler