Balloon Ban Threatens Future of Montauk Holiday Cat Float

An airplane design in the 2018 Holiday Cat Float
A standout at the 2018 Holiday Cat Float, Photo: Teoh Chin Leong/123RF

The organizers of the annual Holiday Cat Float, an event that takes place every year on the Montauk dunes over Labor Day weekend, turned out for a Hamptons Planning Board session last Tuesday to register their outrage over the new law against releasing balloons into the environment. Police were called to preserve order.

“If our participants aren’t able to release balloons into the air, then our extremely lucrative event is over,” shouted Logan Shanley, the CEO of Montauk Cat Floats. “You’re putting us out of business.”

Shanley explained to the Planning Board members that the majority of those who participate in the Cat Float attach helium balloons—“hundreds of them”—to their cats to give them lift. “It’s called a ‘cat float’ for a reason,” Shanley pointed out. “This isn’t about lofting cats through the air with some kind of propulsive force, like a catapult. Anyone can do that. This is about gently lifting the cats from the ground and allowing the breeze to blow them in whatever direction it will.” Cat Float participants win prizes depending on how far their cats travel before returning to ground, explained Shanley, and there’s always a lively market in side bets as well.

Other members of the team that runs the Holiday Cat Float acknowledged the need for a law against releasing balloons into the environment in order to prevent harm to marine life, but urged the Planning Board to consider an exemption for their event, noting that there are no easy alternatives to balloons for achieving the gentle lift their event requires. “One year some guy tried using a hang glider, and it wasn’t pretty,” said Rich Purcell, a staffer with Montauk Cat Floats.

The Hamptons Planning Board promised to take the request under consideration, and the meeting broke up without further incident.

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