The 40th annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is here, although there has been more turbulence to get to this point than usual. As a result, this year’s Balloon Stampede will be different.
The Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, which has organized the event for the past two decades, has stepped aside. Boise balloonists, regulars at the local Stampede for years, stepped up to take the helm — even though they are separated from this community by a four-hour drive.
Changes are nothing new to the Balloon Stampede, which has been evolving since its inception in the 1970s. The event wasn’t an event when it started, just a few balloonists who got together for flights in the Valley. At one time it was held on the open fields at Walla Walla High School. Then it moved to Howard Tietan Park. Then to the Fairgrounds.
Change is coming once again. Boise’s Scott and Laurie Spencer took over the coordination of the Stampede just a few months ago.
They secured sponsors and expect about 35 balloonists, which is typical for the local Stampede.
But the Stampede is moving from the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds and there won’t be the array of vendors seen in past years.
The launches Friday through Sunday at 6 a.m. will be at Garrison Middle School. Nite Glow will take place at Walla Walla Community College on Saturday night.
But one thing that is the same will be the BOOOOMing voice of Jim Bock as emcee of the event.
Will the weather cooperate? Hard to say because the weather seems to change from moment to moment.
If you don’t like the weather here just wait a minute.
But even if a few gusts of wind force the cancellation of one or two launches, we are confident this year’s Stampede will be a success.
The coming of the balloons has become a celebration of spring’s arrival.
So once again, look up over the weekend to see the Walla Walla sky filled with giant, colorful hot-air balloons.
U-B Publisher Rob Blethen, who is on the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce Board, did not particiapte in writing this editorial.