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Balloon festival soars
Sequim Gazette staff
“The blue hole came through.”
Sequim Balloon Festival impresario Randall Tomaras was clearly breathing a sigh of relief Tuesday morning as he helped clear the field where his Labor Day Weekend festival took place in Sequim.
Though he had researched the weather patterns for early September, finding them the driest and least windy of the year, Tomaras knew there was always a chance a lingering rain would scotch his plans.
Instead the balloonists who arrived in town early were able to ascend six days in a row. “That’s unbelievable,” Tomaras said.
All of the balloonists who participated raved about the festival, Tomaras said, adding that will make it easier to bring in more balloonists next year.
Tomaras said the morning ascensions at the Sequim airport were probably the biggest draw, with as many as 2,000-3,000 attending the 6 a.m. events. Sunday, he said, the “entire field” was filled with parked cars.
The balloonists were likely enticed to Sequim by the business opportunities, as well, Tomaras said. “We had over 600 people who wanted a ride who didn’t get one.”
Tomaras said while they were in town the balloonists did “a really did a good job with the community.”
That included giving a number of quick rides to residents, especially those whose yards and fields were utilized as landing zones.
Shelli Robb-Kahler, executive director of the Sequim Dungeness Chamber of Commerce, said their visitor offices saw a very nice bump. In 2011 the Chamber welcomed 260 visitors over the course of the Labor Day Weekend; this year the number grew to just shy of 700.
Robb-Kahler said, “We hope the festival grows and becomes even more successful.”
Day by day
The festival grounds, located in Sequim across Washington Street from the Holiday Inn Express, drew as many as 9,000 over the course of the three days, Tomaras said.
They were there to enjoy the beautiful late-summer weather, the 45 vendors set up on the fairgrounds and the 17 bands that performed.
Though the “balloon glow” was canceled Saturday night due to weather conditions, the Sunday night glow went off without a hitch.
“The thing that makes me happiest is all the hotels, restaurants and the downtown businesses all got a boost,” Tomaras said.
“I just wish it would have been more attendance.”
Tomaras is already planning for next year’s festival. He cited a few improvements he’ll focus on, beginning with more education regarding the way balloon festivals work. “It’s different from anything else,” he said. That includes explaining that both weather and economic conditions make early morning ascensions a necessity.
Tomaras said he’s also planning on providing more activities for those attending the festival during the day. “We probably fell a little short there.” Tomaras said next year he will include more “kids’ activities” and more entertainment for everyone.