Balloon festival volunteer Moroney receives Spirit of Steckler award
Posted at 11:50 p.m. on Friday, October 14, 2022
NATCHEZ — Each year, on the first evening of the Natchez Balloon Festival, the winner of a special prize is announced, the “Spirit of David Steckler Award”.
This award is given to a volunteer who demonstrates the same virtues as the late David Steckler, in whose honor the award is named, honoring his loyal service and tireless efforts that make the Balloon Festival possible.
This year’s award recipient, Curtis Moroney, has been a volunteer with the Natchez Balloon Festival for almost as long as it has existed, 33 years to be exact.
“He is a firm believer in giving back to the community and embodies the key traits of a volunteer as he takes a fearless approach, thinks creatively and is loud and firm with his voice, i.e. up to that his voice will become hoarse at the end of the weekend of the event”, said Peter Burns, during the presentation of the award.
Moroney said it was an honor to receive the award and thanked the countless other volunteers and spectators who make the event a success.
“There are a lot of people who have contributed to this event and have for many, many years,” he said. “Our other volunteers, our team members and our spectators. That’s why we do it. It’s very gratifying to see the fruits of our labor and all the smiling faces. I couldn’t be more honoured.
The plaque reads: “To love without expectation, to give without exception, an open hand through which all care flows, an open, selfless and sharing heart, a mind that gives healing peace, that miracle of light that illuminates a other soul, a gift beyond the price.
Maroney said: “I knew David Steckler. He was a friend of mine. All of these words apply so, so well to David Steckler. And so it’s truly an honor to receive this on his behalf.
Moroney began volunteering as a crew member and from there he became a balloon passenger, navigator, cyclist, balloon operations coordinator, breakfast cook, and computer specialist.
It was Moroney who saw the opportunity to combine his love of cycling with hot air balloons as the creator of the hot air balloon and bike biathlon, a beloved event where cyclists would fly and then return to their destination wherever they landed.
As head of pilot operations, Moroney was responsible for inviting and accommodating pilots and acting as liaison with sponsors. He coordinates logistics and “answers millions of questions” before and during weekend activities, Burns said. Moroney provides key information to pilots and the media. Without him, there would be no balloon spotting guide in the Democrat’s “Lift Off” publication.
“He stays connected and provides connections,” Burns said. “He stays close to the balloonists all year round, attends events and recruits new pilots to experience the Natchez event, and he provides a connection in the network setup at the festival site using his personal gear.”
In addition to the hot air balloon festival, Moroney has many other annual engagements, Burns said.
“He gives back to his hometown 365 days a year as a member of Rotary, the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce, the local Habitat for Humanity Committee, the Natchez Christmas Committee and many more.”
Moroney’s name, along with all the names of previous Steckler Award winners, appears on a perpetual plaque donated by balloonist and longtime friend of the Steckler family, Pat and Carol Canon. This prize is displayed throughout the year at the Natchez Historical Foundation.
Past winners include: The Steckler Family, Peter Burns, Don Gardner, Ed and Laura Godfrey, Sally Durkin, Charles Feltus, Ralph “Trippey” Shields,
Babs Price, Ken Price, Stephen Guido, Suzan Hogue, David Cauthen, Melody Fuqua,
Rick Freeman, John and Sharon Goodrich, Maria Lambert, Chris Trippe, Rachel Lott, Scott Adams, Sam Kirby and Ron and Mimi Miller.
Balloon Festival Committee Member Candi Davis said, “The success of the Natchez Balloon Festival is a direct result of the dedication of community volunteers, those who selflessly give of their time and heart for the benefit the Natchez Balloon Festival and the Natchez Historical Foundation. . Although the Steckler Award honors only one of these volunteers each year, our thanks to each of them. You are all appreciated.