Balloon Festival rises for first time

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One of the leading women pilots in U.S. hot-air ballooning is relocating to the Dungeness Valley to operate her ballooning business and play a key role in the first Sequim Balloon Festival on Sept. 1-3.


  Crystal Stout, widely known as “Captain Crystal” in the Northwest, U.S., and international ballooning circuits, has been ballooning since 1985 and is the “Balloon Meister” of the first Sequim Balloon Festival.


“My role as Balloon Meister is being the air boss, the person who is in charge of the pilots,” said Stout, president of Morning Star Balloon Company. “I interpret the flight conditions and make the decision if it is a good day to fly.”


She will be charged with overseeing 13 balloonists who during the last week in August are to converge on the Sequim Balloon Festival site off West Sequim Bay Road at Washington Harbor Loop. Balloonists will fly out of Carlsborg’s Sequim Valley Airport, accessible via Old Olympic Highway at 468 Dorothy Hunt Lane in Carlsborg.


Weather conditions for ballooning are expected to be ideal during Labor Day weekend, historically some of the North Olympic Peninsula’s driest, least windy days of the year, which balloon festival Executive Director Randall Tomaras said was part of the reason the event was so scheduled.


Balloonists will launch after 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, through Monday, Sept. 3, from a field near Sequim Valley Airport’s hangars.


Stout said she and other balloonists have been known to fly with snow on the ground but are careful in choosing the right weather conditions to fly.


“Any time it’s not raining or windy is a good time to fly,” said Stout, who has organized ballooning events worldwide and most recently tethered her balloon, Diamond Sun, at The Gorge Amphitheater at George, during a concert event in stifling heat.


During the festival, Stout and her crew chief/husband, Dr. Don, will fly Diamond Sun, an 85-foot-tall white and teal-colored Aerostar balloon with diamond designs that she described as large enough to hold 105,000 basketballs, or 105,000 cubic feet of hot air.


The Labor Day weekend event launches at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, and runs through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, on the 36-acre Grant Farm’s grassy hay field. A pre-event concert featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll band Rare Earth is scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, on the main stage at the Grant Farm site.


Stout and husband Don, a traveling chiropractor who owns and operates Mobile Chiro Clinic, also will relocate his business to the Sequim area.


Captain Crystal is a third-generation balloonist. Her grandfather, Kenneth George, was a crewman with the first stratospheric balloon launch of Explorer II from the Stratobowl in the Black Hills of South Dakota on Nov. 11, 1935. Capt. Albert Steven, Capt. Orvil Anderson and Maj. William Kepner’s exploratory flight to more than 72,000 feet gathered weather and atmospheric data that was later used by NASA in its space race with the Soviet Union.


Sequim Balloon Festival schedule of events:
• Friday, Aug. 31 Pre-event
7 p.m. — Rare Earth tickets sold separately, doors open at 5:30 p.m. at festival site.

• Saturday, Sept. 1

6 a.m. — Balloon Trekkers Balloon Rides, Sequim Valley Airport, the only event at the Carlsborg airport, 468 Dorothy Hunt Lane.
All other events are staged at the festival location off West Sequim Bay Road.
8 a.m.-4 p.m. — Balloon Walk (5K, 10K and 21K, Volksmarch)
10 a.m. — Chalk Walk, featuring chalk artists, downtown behind Clallam Title and BrokersGroup
10 a.m. — Kids Corral opens
10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Hot Gas & Gears car show
10 a.m.-11 p.m. — Ballooning Up food court
10 a.m.-5 p.m. — Artists of Elegance (arts and crafts)
10 a.m.-10 p.m. — Music in the Air music festival at the main stage
10 a.m. — The Social Medium Wine and Beer Garden
7 p.m. — Moving in the Air Street Dance
8:30 p.m. — Twilight in the Olympics Balloon Glow
• Sunday, Sept. 2

6 a.m. — Balloon Trekkers Balloon Rides (only event at Sequim Valley Airport)
All day — View Chalk Walk champions (downtown)
10 a.m. — Kids Corral opens
10 a.m. — Hot Gas & Gears Car Show starts
10 a.m. — Ballooning Up food court opens
10 a.m. — Artists of Elegance (arts and crafts)
11 a.m.-10 p.m. — Music in the Air Music Festival
11 a.m. — The Social Medium Wine & Beer Garden opens
7 p.m. — Moving in the Air Street Dance
8:30 p.m. — Twilight in the Olympics Balloon Glow
• Monday, Sept. 1

6 a.m. — Balloon Barnstormers Balloon Race
All day — View Chalk Walk champions (downtown)
10 a.m. — Kids Corral opens
10 a.m. — Ballooning Up Food Court opens
10 a.m. — Artists of Elegance (arts and crafts)
10 a.m. — Music in the Air Music Festival starts
10 a.m. — The Social Medium Beer & Wine Garden opens
3:30 p.m. — Grounds close

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