Gigantic Blimp To Serve As 'Enormous Billboard' For Conservatives' Economic Message | St. Louis Public Radio

Gigantic Blimp To Serve As 'Enormous Billboard' For Conservatives' Economic Message

Sep 20, 2014

At the next Cardinals’ game, the audience — and much of the St. Louis area — may spot something huge floating in the sky, and it’s not a drone, a hot air balloon or a flying saucer.

It’s a blimp, allegedly among the largest in the world, leased by a conservative political group to be flown around the state for the next two months.

Blimp leased by Grow Missouri, shortly after it arrived Friday in Jefferson City.
Credit Anne Marie Moy/Grow Missouri

In effect, the blimp will be “a giant billboard’’ that flies in the sky, says Aaron Willard, treasurer for Grow Missouri, which has leased the aircraft for the next two months.

Emblazoned on its side are the words “Create A Great State #GrowMo”

The blimp arrived late Friday afternoon at the Jefferson City airport, within sight of the Missouri Capitol.

Much of the time, the blimp will be floating around the state, Willard said.  The blimp’s first task is to track the route of meetings that the group is holding arund the state. The meetings are to augment the listening tour that state House Speaker-elect John Diehl, R-Town and Country, plans to conduct this fall for his new initiative, “100 Great Ideas For Missouri.”

Plans also call for the blimp to be flown above sporting events, like football or Cardinals’ baseball games, or concerts, Willard said.

“The blimp is obviously very unique, and it’s going to generate a lot of interest,” he explained.

“As it shows up, as people start having questions and wondering what is going on … It gives us a really great opportunity to explain that even further and say, ‘This is part of a large effort to elicit feedback and information from Missourians all over the state and try to get ideas from them on what we can do to make the state better,” he added.

Sinquefield Is Primary Donor To Grow Missouri

Grow Missouri is funded largely by wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, who has become the state’s most generous political donor. He’s an opponent of income taxes and advocates fewer government regulations.

Sinquefield’s latest donation to the group of $2.5 million has generated a lot of news, particularly because of the group’s plans to use some of the money to help Diehl’s endeavor.

The blimp, and Sinquefield, already are attracting some Democratic jabs. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., fired off a tweet Friday: "In effort to relate to average folks, St. Louis billionaire rents blimp to help new R Speaker of Mo Leg preach conservatism.Truly hilarious."

Willard declined to say how much it is costing to rent the blimp, although he acknowledged it’s “a substantial investment.”

The inside of the blimp includes gigantic balloon compartments filled with helium, plus a cabin with six seats and a bathroom.

Willard said the blimp will spend a day at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, which has an aviation department. And plans also call for some Boy Scout troops to visit the aircraft.

All of the activities are aimed at promoting more interest in the blimp, especially the economic message that Grow Missouri seeks to spread.

For the next two months, Willard said, the blimp is “going to be highly visible.”