Arts & Entertainment

Taking flight: Prestigious Northwest balloon festival lifts off May 8-10 above Walla Walla

WALLA WALLA -- The second weekend in May brings bright colors to the Walla Walla Valley. But it's not blooms but balloons in fanciful shapes and Crayola colors coloring the landscape.

Forty balloons will be at the Walla Walla Hot Air Balloon Stampede on May 8-10 at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

The stampede is the Pacific Northwest's most prestigious hot air balloon rally of the season. It features sunrise launches daily, a classic car show and a Saturday Nite Glow Show plus lots of hand-on activities for youngsters.

Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. May 8, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 9 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 10. With the exception of a few events, like the champagne reception May 9, most activities are free.

Weather permitting, the balloons will launch daily at 6:30 a.m. On May 8 the balloons have been assigned launching sites -- school grounds -- scattered throughout the city.

"There will be a balloon at nearly every public grade school in town," said Rikki Salyer of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

To see a list of the schools, go to, scroll down to "For a complete list of events" and click to get a copy of the brochure. For help in finding the schools either call the chamber, 509-525-0850, or go to

On May 9-10 the balloons will launch from the fairgrounds and Garrison Middle School. After each launch on May 9-10 a pancake breakfast will be served until 10 a.m. Cost is $5.

There will be an arts and crafts fair and sale, more than 70 retail vendors all three days.

The main state at the fairgrounds will feature live entertainment each day.

Other events happening May 8 include a golf tournament at 9 a.m. and a champagne reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Community Building on the fairgrounds. Cost for the reception is $25 per person at the door. Or call the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and buy advance tickets for $20, 509-525-0850.

Meet the pilots and see the balloons from noon to 4 p.m. May 9. The balloons will be inflated (weather permitting) and tethered on the grounds of Garrison Middle School.

Saturday evening is the Nite Glow Show. Ten inflated balloons will be tethered in the arena and as night falls they'll be lit from inside by flames from the burners.

"It's a beautiful sight. They glow in rainbow colors against the night sky," said Salyer.

Nite Glow starts with a concert at 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds grandstand and finishes with fireworks. For more information, or to sign up for the various tournaments, call the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, 509-525-0850 or go to

*Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513;