Balloons inflate and lift off Saturday during the 39th annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede at the Garrison Middle School athletic fields.
Photo by Jeff Horner.
The 40th annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is securely anchored with sponsorship funds, organizers say.
After a surprising switchover in leadership for this year’s hot air balloon festival, the new operators said they have been able to meet sponsorship sales for a self-sustaining event this year.
The milestone was made more difficult with a 300-mile distance and a shorter timeline.
Scott and Laurie Spencer of Boise, longtime participants in the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede, have had just a couple of months to plan the event that typically takes many more months to organize.
The secured funding, including the title sponsorship from Gesa Credit Union, enables the Spencers to put on a bigger event than anticipated.
When the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce passed the torch to the Spencers at the end of February, the initial thought was that the event would have to be scaled back to half the balloonists. The goal was to secure enough funding — in what has already demonstrated to be a more expensive period with rising fuel and insurance costs — for 20 to 25 balloonists.
But in an email, Scott Spencer said 35 balloons will fly the skies in Walla Walla during the Mother’s Day weekend event next month. That number, he said, can be considered consistent with Balloon Stampede figures over the years.
“We have always relied on the loyalty of existing, previous sponsors to this iconic event to carry us forward as the new stewards of the Balloon Stampede,” he said in the email. “The fact that virtually every previous sponsor stepped forward along with a few new ones has insured that we have met our basic budget need/goal for the 2014 40th edition Walla Walla Balloon Stampede.”
Spencer said additional funds would be accepted, but organizers will not actively seek them. Instead, he said, it’s time to focus on logistics of the event.
“We’re about six weeks from first flight now so our attention and focus needs to be on that first flight,” he said.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.