Hundreds of eyes were turned heavenward Friday through Sunday as hot air balloons hovered above the Carson Valley during the inaugural Hot Air for Hope Festival.
“We worked hard for a year to make this event a success, something to be proud of and to call our own in the Carson Valley,” said event annoucer Brett Freeman with Evans Broadcast Company.
Friday morning launched balloons in honor of first responders and veterans while Pau-Wa-Lu students sang the National Anthem.
“We are very thankful for our first responders and veterans, and we’re honored for you to fly with us in our inaugural Hot Air for Hope Festival,” said Freeman.
Many local and surrounding residents said the three-day event was as big a hit as the Carson Valley Days.
“I thought it was sensational and so exciting,” said Carson City resident Sherry Wilson. “From the balloons, the kids zone, vendors and face painting, our whole family had a wonderful, fun filled weekend. Something for everyone.”
The Hot Air for Hope Festival was the brainchild of Center of Hope and Healing Executive Director Amanda Johnson.
“I had the opportunity to help at the Reno Balloon races with my daughter and we had such an amazing time and I just thought, why don’t we have one here,” she said. “The Carson Valley is such a beautiful place, and we have (balloon) pilots here, so, I thought it would be a great event to have.”
Johnson said she went before the board of Douglas Center for Hope and Healing and pitched the idea of hosting a fundraiser involving the balloons. She then went to Pilot AJ Anderson and asked for his help in setting up the event.
“When I asked him to help me host one, he said ‘absolutely not,’ so I pitched what Hope and Healing is about and asked if he could just bring the balloons and he said ‘that I can do,’” said Johnson. “So, we merged the balloons and the mission of Hope and Healing together and came up with Hot Air for Hope.”
Now in its 10th year of serving Douglas County and Rural Nevada, the Douglas Center for Hope and Healing offers support and grief services to families free of charge.
The event started in April with a student outreach program, where local pilots visited schools across Douglas County to educate students about hot air balloons and promote not only the event and the Center of Hope and Healing but encourage students to develop an interest in becoming pilots.
“Pilots believe it is their duty to encourage the next generation of pilots, and there are other ways to get involved too,” said Balloonist Tracy Nelson also known as Professor B Loon.
Johnson said each school participated in a poster contest and winners were awarded first, second and third prizes with the overall winner a flight on a balloon.
“It was our way of getting the word out to the schools and to advertise in a fun way and to get the kids excited,” said Johnson. “Our pilots are very passionate about sharing at the schools and their mission to inspire future pilots.”
Johnson said the turnout of the event was a big success.
“Seeing the response of the community was amazing,” said Johnson. “The pilots are so passionate and generous in donating their time. It turned out very successfully.”
New centenarian Hazel Boulay went up in a balloon, as did Minden Elementary School student Lola A., who won the student outreach poster contest.