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The parade had already started when Cheryl Decap got a nudge from Santa Claus.

“Do you see that?” Santa asked, pointing to the sky. High over Davenport was a round gray dot.

That dot was a runaway balloon, a large helium-filled ball that marched through downtown Davenport on Saturday morning as part of the city’s Kwik Star Festival of Trees Holiday Parade.

At the end of the route, the balloon got away. Though its four handlers had tried to tie its ropes to sandbags to deflate it, the balloon — which is big enough to occupy an office — slipped out and floated into the open air.

“My guess is that it’s going to end up in Canada,” joked Decap, director of the Festival of Trees.

The balloon bore the logo of the Regional Development Authority (RDA), in Davenport. It was one of several generic balloons that are used annually in the parade and are owned by parade host Quad-City Arts.  

Sponsoring a balloon can cost a pretty penny. The City of Bettendorf paid $8,000 for its balloon.

Kevin Maynard, executive director of Quad City Arts, said the loss of the generic balloon was relatively inexpensive — about $1,500 — compared to the larger and more elaborate character balloons, which run upwards of $30,000 or $40,000.

The whereabouts of the errant RDA balloon, it can be said, are blowin’ in the wind.

“I keep checking social media, hoping someone will tag RDA and we can figure out where it went off to,” Maynard said. “It was definitely unexpected for us, and also a little comical.”

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Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times. 

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