No flying? No problem. Balloon event to be bigger next year

Balloonists ignite their burners during the second Balloon Glow Saturday in the parking lot of the Home Depot. - David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

THATCHER — Weather may have prevented the balloons from taking to the air, but the good feelings from the inaugural Gila Valley Balloon Extravaganza were flying high.

Wind and rain prevented the balloons from flying all but the first of the four days of the new event; however, crowds were able to interact with the balloons and owners during the balloon glows at the Mt. Graham Golf Course on Friday and at the parking lot of the Home Depot on Saturday.

Pilots traveled from Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, as well as Arizona; and Vance Bryce, executive director for the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, said plans are underway for even more balloonists next year.

“They’re already telling their friends about here,” Bryce said. “We put on a really good dinner for them at the Double R Grill, at the golf course. And they’ve been texting and sharing, and they love the feel here, they love the community here. We’re hoping to have more next year.”

The Sun Dog, piloted by Thayne Peterson, lifts off while the Concho, left, the No Worries and the High Def finish inflating during Thursday’s flying at the Gila Valley Balloon Extravaganza. – David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

Sponsors for the Gila Valley Balloon Extravaganza included: AZ Air Ventures, Matlock Propane, Best Western Plus, Springhill Suites Marriott, Quality Inn and Suites Safford, Tierra Antigua Realty, Keyhole Properties, Ash Creek Financial, Cakes with TLC, Ice King, Extraordinary Women United, CMI and the Graham County Chamber of Commerce.