'Balloon boy' family putting on music festival in Gainesville


This photo from the Heene Boyz Facebook page shows the band performing in Jacksonville in October.

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.

Roughly 4 years after the Heene family gained national attention and infamy for the "balloon boy" incident, its members have turned their attention to concert promotion and their self-proclaimed "world's youngest metal band."

On Saturday, Richard and Mayumi Heene's company, KD Promotions, is putting on the Restore the Music Festival in downtown Gainesville. From 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., the event will include more than 60 unsigned bands playing at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza stage and venues such as The Midnight, Sweet Mel's, the Gelato Company, The Library and Simon's, Heene said. The headlining act is the Heene Boyz, a heavy metal band of brothers Bradford, 14, Ryo, 13, and Falcon, 11.

Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. None of the downtown venues hosting acts will receive a cut of the gate. Heene said the event should bring in customers for the businesses. In advertisements and in the event permit application with the Gainesville Police Department, the event is billed as a fundraiser for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that purchases instruments to help support elementary and middle school music programs.

Heene said his agreement with the Save the Music Foundation requires that the nonprofit receive at least 10 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales and a raffle. Depending on the size of the crowd Saturday, Heene said he would like to donate as much as 25 percent of the proceeds.

In a phone message, a representative with Save the Music's New York City offices confirmed that the music festival has pledged to donate to the organization.

The musical acts playing Saturday have to pay a $39 registration fee. In return, they receive 10 tickets they can sell for $10 each and keep the money.

Heene said that money is going to cover the costs for renting the plaza and for police at the event. The permit application with the city shows KD Promotions will pay $1,444 for three police officers to staff the plaza for the 11-hour event and $478.17 to rent the plaza. The estimated crowd for the festival is 1,000.

Back in 2009, years before he fronted the family metal band, Falcon jumped into the public consciousness, and the term "balloon boy" joined the national lexicon. The family was living near Denver at the time. A national television audience watched live as a homemade balloon Heene said his son had climbed into broke loose and floated thousands of feet into the air.

Denver International Airport shut down, and the National Guard sent up helicopters to assist in a rescue attempt. As it turned out, the balloon was empty when it landed. Falcon, then 6, was hiding in the family garage.

The incident was branded a hoax to get the family on a reality television show.

Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, while his wife, Mayumi, pleaded guilty to a charge of making a false report to authorities. Richard Heene served 28 days in jail, with probation following. In subsequent interviews, he has denied the incident was a hoax.

The family later moved to Spring Hill. Heene said he still receives emails about the incident from time to time. Most are positive, he said, while some are negative. He said his wife deletes the negative comments because he has "no time for negativity."

Heene said his sons have been playing in a band for about three years. He said he decided to try to organize a festival after he saw the struggles unsigned bands had getting attention.

"Like the AC/DC song, it's a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n' roll," Heene said.

The Saturday festival in Gainesville will be the first one put on by KD Promotions. Heene said he looked at several Florida cities and liked Gainesville as a university city with a walkable, historic-looking downtown.

University of Florida student Sawyer Hudson, 19, is playing the event as a solo act and with his band, Time of Calling. Hudson said he has been posting fliers and posters to spread word about the concert. He thinks the event will help up-and-coming bands get attention.

"The exposure thing is definitely a turn-on for the festival," Hudson said. "Just the experience is a huge benefit, as well."

Diego Ibanez, of Emiliano's Cafe and the chair of the Gainesville Downtown Owners and Tenants Inc., said the event was initially a cause for concern to businesses because Heene was looking to close off streets downtown. That is no longer part of the plan. The plaza is now the only public area that will be closed off except to ticket holders.

That's not unprecedented. In May, Gainesville-bred Less than Jake played the plaza in a concert open to Gator Stompin' ticket holders.

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