The Great American Duck Race

by K. L. Thompson

The 17th annual Great American Duck Race and balloon rally were held the weekend of August 24-25 in Deming, New Mexico. Twenty-six balloonists registered to take part in the event. The festivities were kicked off with a buffet dinner served at the Garcia Civic Center on Friday night giving sponsors and balloonists a chance to meet and socialize prior to launch on Saturday.

The rally was held at the soccer field and the grass was a nice treat for the pilots that routinely launch from dirt fields. It also made a great place to return to for tailgating and balloon initiations. Winds were teasing the pilots Saturday morning and were forecasted to pick up later in the day. Most of the pilots opted to fly though since the winds were light and intermittent . But the winds aloft made for a quick flight as the balloons drifted southwest at a g ood clip at just about every altitude. Not many opportunities for passenger swapouts this day because ground winds picked up early and pilots were opting to rip out rather than chance str onger winds and a rougher landing. Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than in the air wishing you were safely on the ground. Unfortunately some of the pilots had rough landings and with the prevalence of the thorny mesquite, not all were left unscathed. Some balloons were damaged by the thorns as the winds carried them into less than optimal landing areas.

Spirits weren ' t dampened though. Many pilots and their crews joined in the Tournament of Ducks Parade much to the delight of the crowds along the parade route. Chase vehicles were decorated with crepe paper, or anything else that was handy. The Oh Boy crew wore their Viking helms and carried their notorious water guns, squirting spectators that wanted to join in the fun. The PA announcer called them " an example of the typical profile of balloonists " was assumed they meant people that like to have fun. And being the fun-loving crew that they are, they entered a duck in the Great American Duck Races under the name Oh Boy Duckey. The duck must have been proud of its name or worried about the Viking reputation because it won its race and made the crew members who split the $10 entry fee a couple of dollars richer.

Fortunately the winds died down enough to go ahead with the glow Saturday evening and several of the pilots inflated to the immense pleasure of the crowd that gathered to see the spectacle. Mexican food and beer was provided for pilots and crew by the organizers.

Sunday the winds were just too strong and the majority of pilots opted to stay on the ground and start their tailgate parties early. Lil Buck, the Norwest special shape balloon, tried to inflate but had to give up as the winds were just kicking the balloon around a little too much. But in spite of the winds, the rally was a success. Marie and Mike Pinchuk did an excellent job organizing the event and balloonists were ready to return next year.

Deming is a small, but nice community between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Tucson, A rizona on I - 25 in Southwestern New Mexico. The climate draws people to this sunny region and the warmth of the people keeps them here. There are many sights to see around Deming including the City of Rocks State Park with its acres of unusual rock outcroppings, Rockhound State Park where you are encouraged to take home semiprecious stones you find in the park, and Columbus, New Mexico where there is a state park named for Panch o Villa commemorating the history of the area. Silver City, New Mexico is about an hour's drive away and i s the gateway to the Gila Wilderness Area.

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