For the first time since 2019, the skies of Walla Walla are once again full of balloons.
The Balloon Stampede has made its colorful return for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began and organizer Laurie Spencer is thrilled to be back.
“We had a great flight Wednesday night, and we flew this (Thursday) morning as well,” Spencer said. We’ve been sending balloons up into the sky over Walla Walla again and have had a great time so far.
The event opened with Children’s Day on Wednesday, when Walla Walla Valley boys and girls got free captive rides above Howard Tietan Park.
Ropes attached to the ground kept the balloons from floating across the valley, but that did little to diminish the glowing look on the children’s faces as they rose from the ground.
“Kids are able to soar 30 to 40 feet in the air,” Spencer said. “It introduces them to the dream of flying. We like to stimulate their imagination.
The next morning, a mother was back in the park with her eight-year-old son as the balloon pilots prepared to take off.
“He loved it yesterday,” the woman said. “He wanted to come see them fly for real today.”
Thursday was media day, as members of the press – including UB’s own chief photographer, Greg Lehman – took to the skies, as evidenced by the stunning photos of Lehman accompanying this story.
Friday morning will again see balloons launched over the park for VIP day as sponsors are taken in thanks for making the event possible, Spencer said.
Also Friday at dusk is Nite Glow. The balloons, although attached to the field, will be inflated and illuminated.
“They hit the burners and the balloons are glowing like big big Chinese lanterns,” Spencer said. “He’s a crowd favorite.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the balloons will take off again around 7 a.m. over Howard-Tietan Park.
Spencer organizes the event every year with the support of local sponsors.
Although rides for the general public are not offered as part of the stampede, those wishing to soar do have the option to do so.
Seattle Ballooning moves to Walla Walla in the fall to offer rides.
Sunrise rides are $325 and sunset rides are $375.
Although cheaper, morning rides are recommended by Eliav Cohen, Seattle Ballooning’s chief pilot.
“My favorite, personally, are the sunrise flights,” Cohen said. “To see the sun come over the Blue Mountains and over the vineyards is quite incredible. It’s so cute.”
Seattle Ballooning will fly over Walla Walla until the end of the month. Tours can be booked on seattleballooning.com.