GARDNERVILLE - It's up, up and away in the Carson Valley when Rotary International hosts the Carson Valley Days Balloon Race.
Gary Peterson, one of the organizers of the event, said that there is so much interest, he may end up having to turn balloonists away.
"Right now we have 70 balloonists that have indicated an interest and only enough sponsors for 30," said Peterson. "Realistically, I'd like to shut off the entries at 40 balloons. That should be enough for our first year."
Balloons from all over the west will convene in the Carson Valley for the first event of the balloon races, Media Day, on June 9.
"That's the day when we invite the founding and name sponsors, public dignitaries, and special people to fly in our balloons," said Peterson. "The only catch is that they have to be at the launch site at 6 a.m."
Later that evening, the pilots will register and attend a private reception for entrants and sponsors. The races begin on June 10, and Peterson said that the public is invited to walk the launch site, located across from Lampe Park on the south side of Waterloo Lane.
"Be there at 6 a.m. and bring your camera," said Peterson. "You can watch the balloons inflate and even help if you want. It's an awesome sight."
Following the Saturday races all of the balloon teams and chase cars will participate in the Carson Valley Days parade. Pilots and crew will be treated to a barbecue that evening.
During Sunday's races, the Soroptimist International of Carson Valley will sponsor the Hot Air Teddy Bear Affair. Club members will "sell" teddy bears equipped with parachutes that will be launched at a target on the ground. The balloonists are challenged to launch the teddy bear from the proper altitude and come closest to the bull's eye.
Peterson said that the Carson Valley is one of the favorite locations for balloonists, and that the races should be the beginning of an annual event.
"This Valley is one of the prettiest to fly. It's absolutely breathtaking, especially in springtime," said Peterson. "At 5,000 feet (above the valley floor), you can see all of Lake Tahoe, the Carson Valley, Carson City, Reno, Sparks, even down to Walker. It blows you away."
Several Rotary members, including Peterson, are balloonists, and the races promise to be a top-notch event. Peterson said that a few sponsor opportunities are still available.
"Really, the only limitation on the size of the event is the launch area," said Peterson. "Thanks to the Herbig family, we have the donated use of their field for this year's event. But if we want the races to grow, we may have to look for a larger staging area."
Peterson laughed. "And that could be a potential problem. Wet cow poo poo is not conducive to ballooning."
The Carson Valley Days Balloon Races will fund Douglas High School scholarships, and the Soroptimists' Hot Air Teddy Bear Affair will raise funds for community projects. If you are interested in sponsoring a balloon, contact Peterson at 782-7987.