Morning Star Balloon Co. has been a staple at the Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire and Fly-In since it started but now its Captain Crystal Stout is concerned what level of impact COVID-19 will have on tourism in Sequim. She hopes rescheduled events later in the year elsewhere make up for lost time and revenue. (Photo courtesy of Morning Star Balloon Co.)

Morning Star Balloon Co. has been a staple at the Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire and Fly-In since it started but now its Captain Crystal Stout is concerned what level of impact COVID-19 will have on tourism in Sequim. She hopes rescheduled events later in the year elsewhere make up for lost time and revenue. (Photo courtesy of Morning Star Balloon Co.)

Air Affaire organizers cancel 2020 event, plan return in 2021

Balloonist concerned about future flights

SEQUIM — The Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire and Fly-In won’t be landing at the Sequim Valley Airport this August as originally planned.

Organizers announced April 30 that the eighth year of the event scheduled for the last weekend of August is canceled due to concerns about the COVID-19’s impact on local businesses.

However, they’re planning to revive the event at the airport at 468 Dorothy Lane the last weekend of August 2021.

Captain Crystal Stout, a Sequim hot air balloon pilot who has been delivering for DoorDash during the stay-home order, said fellow organizers have continued to watch news on the pandemic and they were unsure if they could find funds in difficult times.

“I think our biggest challenge will be looking for sponsorships from businesses who have been hurt so badly,” she said.

“We want to give the economy a year to get back on its feet. We’re hopeful for next year.”

Emily Westcott, co-organizer of the Air Affaire, said they felt it was best to hold off a year.

“We’ve got a year-and-a-half to build it up and keep outreaching and growing the event,” she said. “ It’s a bummer, but it’ll be twice as good next year.”

In previous years, the Air Affaire featured balloon rides, helicopter rides, countless aircraft coming and going, remote control planes, a car show, live music and a wing walker.

Westcott said organizers plan to make future events one-day fairs, on a Saturday, because it’s usually busier than Sundays.

Last year’s two-day Air Affaire hosted about 3,500 people, organizers said.

For future updates, visit olympicpeninsulaairaffaire.com and Facebook.

Balloonist’s concern

Like many businesses in Sequim, Stout relies on Sequim’s tourism. She offers balloon rides through her Morning Star Balloon Co., and nonprofit Dream Catcher Balloon program, which offers flights for mentally and physically impaired people.

Because of the pandemic, she’s cancelled four events where Dream Catcher was supposed to fly, including trips to Portland and Las Vegas.

Stout said her events in Las Vegas were moved to October but those remain tentative.

“I can put it down in pencil but not in stone,” she said.

Stout said she’s concerned when visitors might be comfortable to ride in a hot air balloon basket again with someone they don’t know.

To counter that concern, she’s considering offering rides for couples or families if wanted.

Once given the go-ahead from the state and federal officials, she plans to offer free tethered rides to essential workers, veterans and others as a thank you on a special weekend.

However, with balloon rides on hold for an undetermined amount of time, Stout said she’s turned to delivering for DoorDash.

“I’m grounded until the end of July,” she said. “It’s a challenge. We all have bills to pay.”

She made 406 deliveries in April, and while she continues to deliver food and pharmaceuticals for residents, she’s considering options like starting her own delivery service.

“I’m staying positive and not taking no for an answer,” she said.

Locals and visitors can purchase a gift certificate from Stout for a future hot air balloon ride by calling her at 360-601-2433 or emailing [email protected].

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