PHOTO GALLERY - Balloon Stampede gets off the ground

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The six Balloon-A-Thon balloons launch simultaneously from Garrison Friday morning joined by another balloon, far left background, that had launched from another school site.

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It was a shotgun start for six balloons, two shown hovering above the barrel of an exhaust stack at Garrison Middle School, in the first-ever Balloon-A-Thon, simultaneously launch Friday morning to kick-off the 2011 Balloon Stampede.

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It's the real thing...as a passenger in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives balloon gives a thumbs up to the crowd below as they float past the Coca Cola balloon Friday morning at Garrison Middle School.

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Balloon pilot Mark Sullivan blends the colorful patterns on his balloon as he straightens out the envelope during inflation Friday morning.

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In the first-ever Balloon Stampede Balloon-A-Thon, six balloons launch simultaneously from the Garrison Middle School field under broken clouds and very light winds Friday morning. Multiple balloons launched from other area school sites to kick-off a successful start to this year's Stampede.

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It's a spring thing. A hot air balloon floats above just greening branches of spring trees in Walla Walla Friday morning.

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Teddy bear clutched warmly in hand, 4-year-old Violet Clark marvels at the inflating balloons at Garrison Middle School early Friday morning atop the shoulders of her dad, Shawn Clark. Violet has been to the Balloon Stampede every year of her small life.

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It was a banner launch Friday morning as crew member Chris Brooks stetched out the U.S. flag that would hang from Jeff "Kong" Shields' balloon as he helped hold the inflating balloon in place at the Garrison Middle School field. Six balloons, including Kong's, participated in the first-ever, Balloon-A-Thon simultaneous launch to kick-off this year's stampede.

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Two balloons fly "two-gether" following the six balloon simultaneous launch Balloon-A-Thon from Garrison Middle School Friday morning.

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The Coca Cola balloon fires its burner as the 37th Annual Balloon Stampede heats up Friday morning at Garrison.

The six Balloon-A-Thon balloons launch simultaneously from Garrison Friday morning joined by another balloon, far left background, that had launched from another school site.

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