US CBP Statement After Seaway News Editor Todd Lihou Heckles Agents After 2013 Kinsmen Cornwall Lift Off

CFN BaloonCFN – Canada and the US have been peaceful neighbors and friends now for over 200 years.   It’s been a good relationship and positive in many ways.  Perfect?  Nope; but like all neighbors you work out your differences.

This year the Kinsmen Cornwall Lift Off Balloon Festival for the first time decided to move the balloons to Avonmore, over 30 miles from the River City.

Apparently our ever ineffective MP Guy Lauzon even got into the act which could be why the balloons ended up in Avonmore instead of St. Andrews, normally the secondary point and ironically where Mr. Lauzon lives in South Stormont.

Todd Lihou, Editor of The Seaway News(Transcon – Transcontinental)   blatted out a column that sounded like it was dictated from his boss Rick Shaver (A former Lift Off Chair and prominent Kinsman) from the beer tent after a long VIP night.

He I guess in what he thought was wit spurted out some information; but did he fact check?    Yes there was an incident and yes it was Lift Off that decided to move so far away; but this festival has been running since 1994.

In fact many of our good friends and neighbors to the South come to the Fest and enjoy it including some disgruntled border agents that spoke with me off the record.

Mr. Lihou himself likes taking trips over the border.   Our American friends like shopping in Cornwall and we like popping over to Trombino’s or shopping at stores like Hannafords or going to the Drive in.   Why the hostility; and why not have both sides of the story or at least fact check Mr. Lihou?

Border guards, we are told, were not amused.

Imagine those poor border guards, quaking in fear as about a dozen hot-air balloons, armed with all the colours of the rainbow and mile-wide smiles from lucky passengers, raced into the United States at nearly 15 km/h.

Surely this had to be the invasion our American friends had been worrying about since the end of the war of 1812.

“Okay guys, here’s what we’ll do…let’s play possum for 200 years and then clobber them with…uh, balloons!!”

Oh, the humanity.

Apparently balloon pilots were told, in no uncertain terms, that they had basically entered the United States illegally and were also advised not to do it again, or things might get serious.

After the reception balloon pilots received, along with their passengers, I can’t help but recall the welcoming attitude the people of Newfoundland showed to the stranded airline passengers who were forced to land in that province after the U.S. shut down its air space on that fateful day.

Canadians welcomed the passengers with open arms: cooking meals, opening their homes and making friends.

Last week some Canadians got a decidedly different response from our American cousins – two words: “Get out.”

So after 18 peaceful and pleasant years Mr. Lihou is somehow suggesting that DHS decided to not allow balloons?   Really Todd?

So I contacted Mr. Michael Friel, Director of the Media Division and Anti-Terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security and asked what exactly happened and what his offices thought of Mr. Lihou’s words?

I received the statement below from Ms Shelbe Benson-Fuller from the offices in Maine that cover our region;

Lift Off has been an annual event since 1994. Event organizers have a procedure in place, that if followed, would have prevented the balloons from crossing the border into the United States. In previous years, prior to the event, a meteorologist determines the weather conditions, and if conditions dictate that the balloons might enter the U.S., the launch site is changed to a point in Canada further inland to prevent such an occurrence from happening.


There are no new laws in place and if event organizers intended for the balloonists to enter the U.S., they would generally need to transmit a manifest through APIS and land at a designated airport. If this is not done, any entry into the U.S. outside a designated port of entry is considered an entry without inspection and individuals could face fines and/or penalties. As a way to prevent further balloonists from entering the U.S. illegally during Lift Off, event organizers moved to Avonmore, Ontario, which is 30 miles north of Cornwall.

CBP knows the importance of facilitating trade and travel, while maintaining the close community ties on both sides of the border, and successfully accomplishing not only our border security mission but also having a successful event for event organizers. As such, CBP has and will continue to work with businesses and event organizers to facilitate any cross-border activities while enforcing current laws and securing our shared border. 

Over the years, CBP has worked with Lift Off organizers on procedures to mitigate the balloons entering the U.S., however, this year there was no notification from Lift Off organizers to CBP. 

There was no contact by Lift Off officials until July 11, when the 17 balloonists entered the U.S., and on July 12, when CBP meet with Lift Off organizers to discuss the incident. It was at this time when Lift Off officials informed CBP that the event was moved to Avonmore, Ontario.


Shelbe Benson-Fuller 

CBP Public Affairs Specialist 
In chatting with Ms Benson-Fuller over the phone it was clear that accidents happen.   A car can enter the US on a back road without realising it or a boater can have an incident that lands them on the US side.   The procedure is that you have to immediately report to Customs and Border Protection.
Maybe, just maybe, the issue was that at some point there was a communication breakdown; but to slur DHS in the manner that Mr. Lihou did surely is not a productive solution with our 20th Anniversary of Lift Off expected next year?
Luckily the rules are in Lift Off’s favour and CFN has learned that a well respected former CBSA Agent has offered to volunteer his wisdom and experience to be a liaison between US Government Officials and Customs and Border Protection and Lift Off for next year; a step that hopefully will ensure a successful event that all can enjoy!
Lift Off is something that can be very special for the City of Cornwall; but these excuses that the board are volunteers has to end; especially after this year’s total failure and disaster.
Once you accept a position; whether it be paid or volunteered you have to be 100% professional.  Excuses after all; are for losers.
Heck I even sent a missive to Jason Jesmer offering my services as a member of the board.  People in Cornwall really need how to work together to make magic happen and what better opportunity than the 20th Anniversary of our Balloonfest that should be the pride of all Cornwall?
But that’s for a whole other story!
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  1. OMG! The balloons must have been awful frightening to the US DHS wondering if Canada stood up for herself and wanted another 1812 war with them but in 21st century style. LOL LOL. The Yankees are coming, the Yankees are coming! With this border police I have been hearing it for years and it has to do with the North American Union and then comes global governance and no people this isn’t a conspiracy theory but a conspiracy fact. None of us on either side are in agreement with this but it is going to go through whether we like it or not.

    I do not shop in the US nor even step foot there and I shop right here in Canada and right here in Ottawa. When we are in Cornwall we do spend money as well. I do like where you put the balloons in Avonmore.

  2. Why do people always have to ridicule and deflect blame when they themselves are at fault. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You failed to communicate then you are at fault. It’s another country for pete’s sake, with rules and regulations. Don’t be so arrogant to think that they don’t apply to you. Now I would say–APOLOGIZE! The saddest thing is that not a balloon was visible in Cornwall (it is called Cornwall Lift Off, isn’t it?) It was like a non-event. And for the record, the field near the St. Andrew’s church was too wet and soggy. The Avonmore fairgrounds was much drier. They salvaged the lift-offs but Cornwall was out of the picture due to zero communication. Sure hope the counties enjoyed the balloons. The only word I have to describe us is “idiots.”

  3. Wow! That Todd Lihou is not only a bad journalist, he’s stupid too. These Lift-Off people are burning their bridges.

  4. Please tell me this “well respected former CBSA Agent has offered to volunteer his wisdom and experience ” isn’t William E. Xxxxxxxx
    If it is let us hope- he learned- after being called on the carpet, early in his career, for stopping a major news organization from getting back to Ottawa with a news story that would have been carried across Canada.

  5. Wow. Look at the finger pointing starting. When it comes down to it, Cornwall Lift off looks like they did not follow what was done in the past, or look into see any changes have been made. Really? No surprise there.

    Now a border Guard has come forward to help. why has Lift Off not done that in the past? Could that not have been a better way to go? Who knows what they are thinking.

    One last screw up this year. Communication. That was brought up during lift off. It was brought up after lift off. Hell I even sent some suggestions to the lift off board. We will just have to wait and see.

    With it being 20 years next year, Lets hope they don’t Screw this one up. Balloons are needed for it to be a lift off.

  6. Author

    bbq_kevin I have offered my skills and talents to the board via Jason Jesmer. So far I’ve been asked to provide a mini-bio…..

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