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Balloon race leads off Carson Valley Days

Staff reports

The first Rotary Club Carson Valley Days Balloon Race will kick off the 90th annual Carson Valley Days celebration early in the morning of June 9 with a “media day.”

Members of the press will be flying in the balloons, but members of the public are always welcome to watch, said Gary Peterson, organizer of the race.

All three days, pilot briefings will take place at 6 a.m., and the balloons ascend about 6:30 from the field across from Lampe Park. Some 30 balloons will take part in the media ascension Friday, and 37 balloons are entered into competition for Saturday and Sunday.

The public may watch as the balloons are laid out, some as early as 5 a.m., and inflated following the pilot briefings.

Peterson will be flying the “hare” balloon in the competition. After launching, he will set down his balloon somewhere in the Valley and place a big “X” on the ground. The object of the race is for the 37 other balloons, also known as the “hounds,” to drop a bean bag on the “X.”

The bags are numbered, and the bags that come closet to the middle of the “X” are the winners. Points are earned during the two day race and totalled up on Sunday to determine the overall winner.

“They may drop their bags from any altitude,” Peterson said. “They can lay it down, skimming along at 2 inches from the ground, or if they’re at 1,000 feet and they’re over the target, they can drop it.”

The bags have streamers attached and are filled with bird seed, so they don’t weigh too much. The balloon race is more of a competition of skill on the part of the pilots than a race, he said.

Sponsors of the balloons will ride with their pilots and are expected to help during the flight and afterwards in folding up the balloon to return to the launch field, where the traditional champagne toast and tailgate breakfasts will be held.

On Sunday about noon, the winner will be named from the announcer’s stand.

The balloons will also take part in the Hot Air Teddy Bear Affair on June 11, sponsored by the Soroptimist International of Carson Valley.

In this race, the hare balloon, also piloted by Peterson, will drop a big Teddy bear to act as the target.

Small Teddy bears will be numbered with corresponding tickets costing $5 each. Balloonists will ascend with the numbered Teddy bears, all provided with parachutes, and drop them.

The bear that lands closest to the mark will earn its owner a $1,000 cash prize, said Soroptimist member Jessica Jensen.

Tickets may be purchased at Scolari’s on Saturdays, today, May 27, and June 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at Raley’s Sundays, May 28 and June 4, at the same times.

Tickets will also be sold along the Carson Valley Days parade route on Saturday, June 10.

All Hot Air Teddy Bear Affair proceeds will be used to support Soroptimist service projects in the Valley, such as the Family Support Council’s shelter for victims of domestic violence.

For more information, call Jensen at 782-0343.