‘Lighting Up The Skies' to be Balloon Stampede theme

The official name is now ‘Walla Walla Balloon Stampede Presented By Gesa Credit Union.'

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WALLA WALLA - This year's Balloon Stampede theme will be "Lighting Up The Skies," though the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce is still looking for a sponsor for its hallmark sky-lighting event, Night Glow.

In January, officials with Wildhorse Casino & Resort informed the Chamber they would not sponsor Night Glow this year, Chamber Vice President Susan Hall said.

But she noted that another sponsor agreed to a deal worth $20,000 each year for the next three years.

"There were a lot of high-fives in the office when Gesa came through," Chamber CEO Dave Warkentin said. He explained that for the first time, the Chamber is providing a title sponsorship to the Balloon Stampede, which means the official name of the event is now "Walla Walla Balloon Stampede Presented By Gesa Credit Union."

Gesa will also get its name branded on hundreds of Balloon Stampede memorabilia, which go on sale Monday at the Chamber, Hall added.

Warkentin noted that Graphic Apparel has been busy embroidering "Presented By Gesa Credit Union" on the hundreds of shirts and other items that will be sold to the public and worn by volunteers.

As for Night Glow, if and when a sponsor is found, its names will be embroidered on to the Night Glow memorabilia.

Another Balloon Stampede fundraiser, the Balloon Meister Sponsorship, is on the deflated side this year. But it's nothing to worry about, Warkentin said, adding that he feels businesses are just waiting a little longer to commit.

It takes about $100,000 to run the Balloon Stampede, Hall noted. And Balloon Meister sponsors provide $1,299 in exchange for their business names to be placed on a gondola.

So far, the Chamber has sold 22 Meister sponsorships, but it would like at least 40. The money from the Balloon Meister Sponsorship is used to pay for travel and other expenses of the balloon teams.

As for the theme of this year's event, Hall added the goal was to find something strong and uplifting for the current tough economic times.

"We were looking for something inspiring, and ‘Lighting Up The Skies' just seemed the right kind of words," she said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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