SEQUIM — As if wanting to entice a healthy flock of hot-air balloons, Sequim presented an azure sky and a field unruffled by even the slightest wind Tuesday afternoon — for what amounted to a teaser.
This teaser, starring the 90,000-cubic-foot balloon Aura, was for the inaugural Sequim Balloon Festival, a multicolored and -faceted event to take place here Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-3, 2012.
Mandy and Vic Johnson of Covington brought Aura, a balloon and four-person basket powered by liquid propane, to Fred and Loretta Grant’s property at the end of Washington Harbor Road.
Shortly after 5 p.m., they inflated the thing, then let it breathe as the festival steering committee watched.
Heading up the group is Randall Tomaras, the festival organizer who calls the event not just a good, high time, but also “an economic exercise.”
Tomaras, a Sequim-based commercial photographer who previously orchestrated Everett’s centennial celebration — which included a hot-air balloon show — first floated the Sequim festival concept earlier this year.
The first time up, he said, the event should attract about 20 balloon meisters — including Vic Johnson, who said he is “absolutely” coming back for it — plus plenty of admirers.
There will be early morning group launches, balloon rides and a “night glow,” when the balloonists turn on their heaters to illuminate their colorful orbs, Tomaras promised.
“The whole idea,” he said, “is to create an economic benefit for this area.”
As he began envisioning a balloon festival, Tomaras researched Sequim’s late-summer weather and found that the Sept. 1-3 period rarely sees rain or winds above 10 mph.
That makes it ideal for hot-air ballooning, he said.
And Sequim’s festival will have abundant activities alongside the main event: music, a wine-grape stomp, a children’s play space and bicycle, foot and kayak races.
“We’re going to put in a reflecting pool the size of a football field,” Tomaras added, to turn the Grants’ field into a giant mirror for the balloons in the sky.
“We’ll have vendors, a food court . . . and we’re going to try to get some Elvis impersonators” for good measure.
Tomaras and the festival committee will be on the lookout for sponsors. Already they’ve sparked the interest of The Brokers Group, a real estate firm in Sequim.
“I just think it’s so cool,” Brokers Group co-owner Deborah Norman said of the launch plan.
“We’re excited to have something unique.”
Once the Sequim event is aloft, the North Olympic Peninsula will join cities — and wide-open spaces — across the nation and globe.
In Washington state, hot-air balloon races and rallies fill the skies over Winthrop, Walla Walla, Prosser and Quincy.
Then, there’s the Poorly Attended New Year’s Day Rally, which attracts maybe a handful of balloons Jan. 1 in Tracy, Calif., and the International Balloon Fiesta in early October, when 700 balloons ascend above Albuquerque, N.M.
“It’s a great shoulder-season event,” Barbara Hanna, the city of Sequim’s communications and marketing manager, said of the planned festival.
The Olympic Peninsula attracts tourists all summer long, and hot-air balloons and their accompanying activities would “really extend the season. So it’s great timing,” Hanna said.
________Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.