The ninth annual "Wallowa Mountain High" 1996 Balloon Festival was held from June twenty-first to the twenty-third at Enterprise Oregon. This is one of the most spectacular places in the west with the mountains of the Eagle Cap wilderness towering over the towns so close you feel as if you can reach out and touch them.
The event had ten balloons this year although they have had up to twenty-four in year's past. Gentle winds and overcast skies made for easy viewing of the area locally called the "Little Switzerland of America." Balloons and pilots did just the opposite of the advance information I was given on my scouting trip prior to the flight. They usually go down the valley to the Northeast. This year however the winds were contradictory and sent the balloons southwest to the town of Joseph, seven road miles away.
The Enterprise Merchants Association is dedicated to the growth of the festival and has three full days of family entertainment to promote the balloons. Friday has the first morning flight, downtown sidewalk sales, an antique show, Art in the park, and a Merchant's Mini-Golf tournament on the downtown streets. The evening entertainment starts off at five o-clock when the Cattlewomen put on a mean steak feed. After eating you can enjoy the "Cowboy" Poetry and music at the fairgrounds. Evening flights leave the launch site starting at seven o-clock.
Saturday started off with the early flight of balloons against an overcast sky with a few breaks allowing sunshine to highlight the mountain peaks still clad in snow. The rest of the day includes the Balloon Daze Run, the Antique show, Music in the park, Balloon Daze parade, Buffalo BBQ, Real Stuff auction, a dance featuring the band "Just 4 Fun," and of course the awe inspiring Night Glow at the fairgrounds. When seeing these glowing, brilliantly lite fabrics against the high peaks it gives you a new perspective on beauty.
Sunday has the last group flight in the morning with clouds again obscuring the sky. This does help end the worry about shadows under the balloon that makes picture taking difficult. Two of the balloons put down in the front yard of some very surprised Joseph residents at the end of this morning flight. You can bet they will be the talk of the town for weeks to come.
Flights were available for interested persons during the remainder of Sunday, though most available spaces had been filled up for weeks prior to the festival.