When I was a little kid, I used to love/fear this one book about a girl and her balloon. The internet has not helped me remember its name, so based on my own shoddy memory, here is a brief outline of the plot: Our protagonist has a balloon, and at the end of a fun-filled day, she declines to release into the sky. (We are made to understand that this would have been the more selfless move.) That night, probably after an extended period of staring at her buoyant prize, the girl falls asleep and finds herself in Balloon Land, or some similarly named realm. And further, because of all that clinging to a supermarket dirigible, she finds that she has become a balloon.
At first, this seems super fun: Picture a landscape made of balloon sculptures, everything basically the bouncy castle version of itself. But soon, the little girl comes face to face with her own mortality, as we all must. If you are a balloon, you will either deflate, or you will pop, there are no other outcomes. Panicked, probably, she wakes up to find her obviously haunted balloon gone, which I think is for the best. I am not sure what the moral of this story was supposed to be—if you love something, let it go free, or you will die?—but the parable itself frightened me, slicked my juvenile palms with sweat such that it would have been impossible not to send any and all balloons into the stratosphere.
So it is with great confusion that I now report: East Hampton is mulling a proposal that would basically mean anyone who lets go of a balloon gets shipped off to Balloon Land. Also, they could face up to a $1,000 fine, or even 15 days in jail. According to Newsday, assistant town attorney NancyLynn Thiele has assured concerned locals that law enforcement would not go "after 3-year-olds who can't hold onto their parade balloon." Accidents will be allowed. But anyone who purposefully lets go of a rubber balloon, a latex balloon, a polychloroprene balloon, or a nylon balloon is in Big Trouble.
(Outdoor water balloon fights would still be acceptable, provided participants pick up the bits when the war is over, and residents would still be free to play with balloons in the privacy of their own homes. Weather balloons and hot air balloons could still do their thing.)
East Hampton hopes that forcing people to hold onto their balloons will encourage proper disposal, because balloons released into the open air eventually become trash that litters the landscape or gets ingested by wildlife. (Or, in certain situations, prompt local authorities to launch maritime and aerial investigations that end up costing thousands of dollars.)
According to Patch, current Suffolk County law caps mass balloon releases at 25 balloons per person, per 24 hour period. Many in East Hampton Town find that to be a frivolously high threshold, and locals have reportedly launched a public awareness campaign to educate the most likely culprits—again, children—about the dangers of balloon pollution. Because, yes, as Theo Landi (who supports the proposal, and who owns of The Party Shoppe in East Hampton) told Patch, the measure is mostly "non-enforceable." Prevention would be key.
So while balloon release is not illegal in East Hampton yet, probably refrain from setting free your floaty orbs during your next visit, because the town seems pretty hostile to that behavior. Also, please let me know if you have any idea what children's book I am referring to, thanks.