Patrick Shelby

Patrick Shelby

Mother Nature has a way of adding to the dramatic character and color of any memorable occasion — a contributing factor which collectively bound volunteers, participants and visitors together during the 30th annual Great Prosser Balloon Rally over this past Friday through Sunday event.

When I arrived to the Lower Yakima Valley last year, I missed out on the hops and grape harvests, Central Washington State Fair, along with the hot air balloon rally that traditionally marks the region’s segue into autumn — ever since I was a kid and going to Seattle Seahawk games at the Kingdome, I used to associate the NFL football season with the kick-off of fall.

Presently, I have expanded my focus to include an eastern viewpoint, I am learning and taking part in new ceremonial rites of autumn pageantry – soaking up the bountiful pigment beyond the gridiron action. Expanding my horizons to soak up and capture the spirit as characterized by the people for sharing in celebrating the occasion with others.

Last Friday’s upcoming weekend weather forecast called for turbulent skies with a chance of rain that could severely limit some of the balloon rally activities. But what I discovered before the sun had risen at the Port of Benton County Airport was the high-flying enthusiasm embraced by scores of volunteers that lifted my grounded hopes.

Some of them had been taking part in the festivities since they were little kids, like NaiKia Yule. She even sent me a photo from her phone - all bundled up in a blanket and flashing a smile as bright as the morning sunrise, along with a “Tony the Tiger” hot air balloon in the background preparing to lift off from the airport field.

Her rally enthusiasm was matched by Rachel Blount and the two of them were not dependent on the weather at hand or a cup of inspired coffee to make the morning special. They both brought their boyfriends for the very first time to help volunteer as crew members and assemble the balloons in preparation for lift off.

The three-decade, time honored tradition which had influenced their youthful curiosity and imagination, now empowers an adventuresome direction to make those ambitions a reality and take flight. It was time to follow their untethered lead and watch them take charge in making the most out of the moment

Both young women embodied a hometown excitement for the annual sunrise magic which continues to add a purposeful hue of elevated meaning to their lives – bringing them back home to share in their glowing childhood memories that inspire others to imagine and those on the ground to dream.

I enjoyed being in the middle of the volunteer crew’s energy and sharing in their high spirits for traveling beyond the limitations of my own perceptions and the 100 ft. of rope that was securely tied to the basket, enabling me to safely picture myself towering over head on a balloon with a kaleidoscope of diamonds in the sky.

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever,” Walt Disney.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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