As a Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce volunteer for the 37th Annual Balloon Stampede, I feel obligated to respond to a recent letter concerning some of the many events surrounding the stampede this year.
The stampede is a "free" event sponsored and financed by many local businesses and staffed by over 200 volunteers who give their time, energy and frequently a little of their own personal money. It is "Americana."
A local youth designed the "kids" T-shirt and another local resident designed the logo for the poster, adult shirts and pins. Design submission was open to the public and was "juried" by local members of the Chamber in a contest designed not to favor any particular person.
A new event was added this year, which took additional time and commitment from local businesses and citizens designed to ultimately help local non-profits provide greater services to our local citizens. The Balloon-a-thon was a success in more ways than just entertainment.
The Balloon Stampede is always on the second full weekend of May, which means once approximately every seven years it is not on Mothers' Day weekend.
Now, for the big challenge-- weather issues. It is difficult to determine the best weekend to have a balloon event, and I go to several events a year throughout the Northwest. Each is unique and has its own weather issues from wind to excessive heat. If you look back on history, our event has had more balloon flights than cancellations.
As the balloonmeister for the Balloon Stampede, safety is paramount. I closed the field on Saturday morning because of unstable weather conditions aloft.
A balloon is not capable of escaping unstable winds and adverse weather conditions aloft and safety of pilots and passengers is paramount. Nobody wants to cancel flights, but everyone should be concerned for safety.
Obviously, the storm on Saturday evening closed the fairgrounds which also canceled the Nite-Glow. Sunday morning's torrential rains obviously canceled that flight.
I am sorry and apologize if some people felt the event wasn't up to their expectations.
I suggest they call the Chamber and become one of the many volunteers for the 38th Balloon Stampede which is scheduled for Mothers' Day weekend, May 11-13, 2012.
The Balloon Stampede has been a source of pride for our Valley and volunteering is one way of helping to improve the event. Getting involved can only make the event better.