CARSON CITY — As the 50th annual Frontier Days festival kicked off Friday from downtown Carson City to Haradine Park, attendees expected to see Don Wertman and his VIPER hot air balloon tied up and waiting.
However, when cars began to pull into the designated parking area, Wertman stood by his ball basket outside a silver enclosed trailer.
“Balloon rides don’t usually happen in winds over eight miles per hour, preferably five or less,” Wertman said. “While we’re here and our hair is flying, it’s well over eight o’clock, it’s actually between 18 and 25 (mph). I’m here prepared, but obviously Mother Nature has her trump card against me.
Due to the size of the balloon, Wertman said a strong wind scenario can be difficult to monitor.
“The balloon we use is enough to carry two or three passengers,” Wertman said. “So they’re 80 feet high and 60 feet wide, and in a high wind scenario, it’s going to bounce around. And it’s not necessarily comfortable to watch, let alone climb into the basket.
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While the tethered balloon rides were the most anticipated event of the day, for one Carson City resident, seeing old friends was the highlight.
“I graduated from Carson in 1984 and come back here when I can,” Kriss Schultz said. “It’s been 31 years since I took part in a Frontier Days. It’s like a little class reunion we’re having for the 1984 grads.”
Crowds were sparse when the festival staff picnic set up, but with the smell of hot dogs and cheese-filled brats wafting through the air, a buzz could be felt in the park.
As people signed up for the Frontier Days scavenger hunt and others laughed and hugged long-lost friends, the tethered balloon rides no longer became the main attraction.
“People love it,” said festival organizer Amy Tasker. “(They) love treasure hunting. They find out a bit about Carson’s story while having fun. It was fun to create.
Once everyone had had their fill of food and the lines died down, Dean Kipp of Carson City began setting up a catch net, consisting of a long section of fence with pool noodles lime green attached by zip ties, below deck.
Once the net was secure, Queen Paige Fleisher of Frontier Days picked up a cardboard box filled to the brim with yellow plastic ducks and began the walk down the concrete paths of Haradine Park towards the starting point of the race. ducks on Fish Creek.
As Fleisher walked, people began lining the banks in hopes of securing the $100 prize. Once in position, the ducks were ejected into the rapids below.
They traveled along the windy creek, some getting stuck in the brush and rocks that dot the creek bed. Michael Beach, Montcalm County Commissioner of District 2, caught the first duck across the line, securing $100 for Caden Foster of Carson City, the owner of duck #55.
The winner of the festival’s 17th annual hot air balloon contest was Mark Enzser in his balloon which he calls “Celebration”, according to Tasker.
“Singer Kevin Schaffer put on a fantastic show in the park on Saturday night during the flight and the glow,” Tasker said. “The 50th Frontier Days were great. Good weather, good food, good music, good flights and glows. We saw so many people enjoying the weekend. We are extremely pleased with the success of Frontier Days this year.