GREENVILLE — The day following Sunday’s running of the Indianapolis 500, one local family wasn’t in the mood to celebrate a victory lap.
Mandy and Jeff Martin, who live on a farm 6 miles west of Greenville, were peeved by their discovery of balloons launched from The Brickyard the day before.
“There were two of them, and he found them Monday morning, probably about 8 a.m.,” she said.”
Mandy said she has long been “passionate” about the issue of balloon launches.
“One of the things I’m very passionate about is being anti-balloon release, so I tend to be aware when places are having big balloon releases,” she said. “We knew that they were doing that. My husband called me that morning and said, ‘There’s two red balloons out in the field, and I think they’re from the Indy 500,’ so we ran over there and got them.”
Mandy said she confirmed the balloons found on her family’s farm were from the race based upon a report from an Indianapolis TV station, which showed how the balloons were prepared for release.
“They don’t use strings but they tie them to each other, and the two we found were two red ones tied together, and they’re extra large balloons,” Mandy said.
She posted photos of her son Trevar holding the balloon remains on her Facebook page, a post which, thus far, has been shared almost 130 times.
One commenter posted, “Mowed over a handful of them — here outside Ansonia. I couldn’t figure out where they came from. Now I know.”
Mandy, a naturalist with the Darke County Parks District, said she and her family have found several balloons on their property over the years.
“[The Indy 500] released 39,000 balloons, so where are the others? In the ocean, a river or lake? What happens to the balloons, is when they pop, they look just like jellyfish. When a sea turtle is in the ocean, and that’s one of their favorite foods is jellyfish, they are going to see this balloon and they ingest it,” she said. “The more that we can raise awareness, hopefully we can change a few people’s minds.”
She pointed to a report by the Ocean Conservancy, which stated, “Trash in the water, including balloons, affects more than 260 species worldwide. Animals, birds and fish get sick or choke when they eat balloon fragments and plastic valves and attachments. Many others marine animals drown when they get entangled in trailing ribbon or string.”
The Ocean Conservancy said a recent study of sea turtles found that of the 41 pieces of rubber eaten by turtles studied, 32 pieces (78 percent) were balloon fragments.
Mandy also pointed out a mylar balloon, which has been stuck in a cedar tree at the Park District.
“It’s been there for at least five years,” she said. “And nobody can get it because it’s way too high. So I just look at it every day and cringe.”
Ultimately, Mandy said she would like to see the tradition end, first at the Indy 500, then elsewhere.
“My goal is for the Indianapolis 500 not to release balloons next year; that is my goal,” she added. “Though that may be a little lofty.”
“We know what we know until we know different. We thought that balloon releases were fun and not harmful,” Mandy said. “Even though it’s a tradition that they release these balloons, they can start a new tradition. It’s a simple thing we can do. I know there are larger problems in the world, but this is a simple thing can stop doing to change the outcome of what happens when these balloons land.”
She urges those with the same concern to visit BalloonsBlow.org, an advocacy group which provides information about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people and the environment.
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