COLUMBIA — Casey the Balloon Guy felt all 76 degrees as the sun beat down Friday afternoon.
“That breeze feels nice,” he said as he drew dots on the back of a ladybug bracelet.
Casey Shamey’s balloon stand was one of the attractions at the Karis Community Church’s second Independence Day carnival in Flat Branch Park. Guests were welcome to free food, carnival games, raffle prizes and balloon animals.
Coordinator Rob Gaskin estimated that more than 1,500 people stopped by throughout the day, up from about 1,000 last year.
“On permits I filed with city last year, they asked for expected turnout, I estimated maybe 100 to 200,” Gaskin said. “And we had over 1,000. We served about 800 hot dogs, 100 snow cones, popcorn, and gave away bicycles, iPods and DVDs.”
Because Gaskin had a new perspective on how popular the event would be, his paperwork this year was more accurate.
Prizes and concessions were donated or purchased with donations and funds raised by the Karis Church.
Holly and Lincoln Meyer, ages 2 and 5, respectively, were waiting in line for a balloon creation.
“It’s awesome. It’s great,” said their father, Hans Meyer. “We came from California, and they didn’t have things like this. Columbia is a great community for bringing people together and doing things like this.”
The Columbia Fire Department brought one of its engines from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and answered questions from children.
Gaskin and other coordinators were pleased with the turnout and are already looking forward to 2009.
“Same time, same place next year, now that we know this can be successful annual event,” Gaskin said. “We just want to do the same thing, just bigger.”