Sequim Balloon Festival canceled for this year
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
A hot-air balloon floats over canopied farm fields in the Dungeness Valley in August as part of the Sequim Balloon Festival.

By Joe Smillie and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM –– After declaring last September that a second balloon festival was “certain,” festival director Randall Tomaras has decided to cancel the 2013 version, which was set for Labor Day weekend.

Tomaras said this week he called off the Sequim Balloon Festival for this year because plans for another air festival to celebrate Sequim's centennial were set for Labor Day weekend.

“What I'm trying to avoid is another lavender war,” he said, referring to the 2011 split of the area's lavender businesses into two groups that host separate events on Sequim Lavender Weekend, held each year in July.

“The community doesn't need that,” Tomaras said. “I don't need that.”

The inaugural Sequim Balloon Festival was last Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-3.

The Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire has been planned for three years, said organizer Andy Sallee, president of the Sequim Valley Airport, 468 Dorothy Hunt Lane.

Set Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the airport, the Air Affaire will celebrate the Sequim centennial and the 30th anniversary of the airport, Sallee said.

It will be a very different event from the balloon festival, he added.

The Sequim Balloon Festival featured about a dozen hot-air balloons that provided morning rides over the Sequim-Dungeness Valley from the airport near Carlsborg, while food and craft booths, musical events and tethered rides in a RE/MAX balloon offered as a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula were staged in a field on the east edge of the city at 792 West Sequim Bay Road

The Air Affaire will focus on aviation in general, with probably only two or three hot-air balloons, Sallee said.

A display of antique aircraft is planned, along with remote-controlled planes and helicopters, aerial exhibitions and food and crafts vendors, Sallee said.

Sallee said Tomaras' notice on his Facebook page that he was canceling the balloon festival was unhappy news.

“We're saddened to see that he decided not to do it this year,” Sallee said.

“We're keeping the door open for balloon festivals in the future.

“Sequim Valley Airport is grateful for Randall's work in bringing balloons to Sequim,” Sallee said.

Sallee said he wanted the public to know that balloons will be launched at the airport at different times during the year, even if there is no balloon festival.

He said the co-organizers are Emily Westcott of Sequim and Captain Crystal Stout, owner of Sequim-based Morning Star Balloon Co.

Stout, who flew at last year's balloon festival, said she is organizing only the hot-air balloon portion of the Air Affaire.

Stout said she received a lot of positive feedback about her balloon at last year's festival and hopes friends will bring balloons to the upcoming Air Affaire.

“This community loves flying,” she said.

“I think the air show is going to be a great, positive event that celebrates the joy of flying.”

Tomaras said he was disappointed with the way the inaugural balloon festival event in 2012 — which he estimated brought in 3,000 to 4,000 people a day — was staged.

“I wanted to bring something to town where everybody would go, 'Wow, look at that,'” Tomaras said.

But with events spread out at two locations 7.5 miles apart, Tomaras said, the 2012 event was less than he expected.

“Midway through last year, I realized it all should be in one location,” Tomaras said.

He said balloon pilots made $18,000 giving rides at the airport.

Tomaras said he is trying to find another town to stage his balloon festival.

“I've already gone to other communities, and I've got one that says they've got $21,000 to help out,” he said.

Timing of the balloon flights, most leaving early in the morning, made it harder to attract people from the east side of the Puget Sound, he said.

“Ballooning is a 6 a.m. event,” he said. “So if you live over there, you have to get up at 4 [a.m.] to attend the festival. Then it's hard to get a ferry over at that time of day, too.”

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at

Last modified: February 14. 2013 6:13PM
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