Launch of hot air balloons signals spring in the Valley

The Balloon Stampede, now in its 38th year, is a community celebration.

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The 38th Annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is about to begin. A few balloons took off this morning as a warm up for Friday's official start.

But when Valley residents see balloons in the air it signals spring is (finally) here.

The wet weather might just be behind us as sunshine is predicted through the weekend.

The flights throughout the Stampede should be just as spectacular. And Saturday's Nite Glow is sure to be a terrific show as the flames push hot air into the balloons garnering oohs and ahhs from the crowd that fills that grandstand at the Fairgrounds.

Even with the expected sunshine, the Stampede might experience some turbulence. Hot-air balloon pilots are held hostage by nature.

Let's hold our collective breath that a brisk breeze (anything over 8 mph is enough to ground the balloons) won't disrupt this year's Balloon Stampede.

But even if a few unexpected gusts of wind force the cancelation of one or two launches, this year's Stampede --like all those before it -- will be a huge success.

Over the years the Stampede has become more than a celebration of hot air ballooning. It is a community celebration.

The warm, spring weather will make enjoying the booths and displays at Fairgrounds and all of the other community events pleasant.

The Balloon Stampede is nearly as much fun on the ground as it is in the air.

Still, the real deal is in the air, which is why the theme of this year's event -- "Splendor in the Sky" -- captures the essence of the event.

The community always looks forward to a weekend of seeing the seeing the Walla Walla sky filled with colorful balloons.

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