WELLSVILLE – Snow may be dominating consciousness right now, but summer and hot air balloons are coming in 2022 and the Great Wellsville Balloon Rally committee has begun planning for the 45th annual event.
One evening last week marked the first meeting of the year for the twenty or so volunteers who organize the Hot Air Balloon Rally. This is the first time in two years that the event will take place – due to COVID-19 restrictions the rally has been canceled in 2020 and 2021.
The Great Wellsville Balloon Rally began in 1976 as an air show to help celebrate the nation’s bicentennial. Despite the years, organizers say, they are sticking with the 45th annual designation for this year.
Rally chairman Brad Thompson reminded the group of volunteers that the event has a tradition of using its own counting system.
“They didn’t have a 13th rally,” he said.
At the start of its second decade, the group decided to skip the 13th rally out of sheer superstition and went straight from 12th to 14th without looking back.
Plans for the 2022 Rally are much the same as previous years, with one addition. Mike Raptis, one of the owners of Texas Hot, suggested adding a little sauce to the event. Raptis attended the meeting and made a suggestion regarding the balloon rally parade, which takes place the Saturday before the rally. The Rally takes place the third full weekend of July.
Raptis noted that last year, Texas Hot was going to celebrate its 100th anniversary, but due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting crowd gathering, the founding families decided to hold its anniversary this year.
He recalled that the Texas Hot parades for the company’s 50th and 75th anniversaries brought elephants, armored tanks and many groups to the village. Although they can no longer have an elephant and the floats can be questionable, they can increase the number of groups marching in the parade.
“We can look around and see what groups we can find to walk,” he said.
Typically, the rally’s parade, one of the largest in the region, features marching bands and floats from area high schools prepared by area businesses and organizations. Sports teams also marched, along with units representing organizations from the YMCA to the SPCA.
The rally committee itself was also represented by a float as balloon pilot and all-around balloon master Bill Childs shows off his balloon’s pod and propane burner, which he lights throughout the course of the parade.
Members of the rally committee embraced the idea of sharing the parade with Texas Hot’s 100th anniversary.
“If there are two things Wellsville is known for, it’s the Texas Hot and the Great Wellsville Balloon Rally,” one member said.
Raptis said they are also planning other events to celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary.
While everything about the rally and parade is still in the planning stages, volunteers are now getting to work and welcoming help from others who want to be part of the event. The next Rally Committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. on March 2 at the Chamber of Commerce office on Main Street.