Festival of Balloons seeks volunteers to elevate 40th installment

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Calling all hot air balloon lovers, festival goers, and community makers: The Tigard Festival of Balloons is back next month, and it’s calling on you, yes you, to help this year’s 40th installment take flight.

The 40th Tigard Festival of Balloons launches Friday June 21, at Cook Family Park and continues through the weekend with its signature early morning balloon flights, carnival rides, live music, local and artisan vendors, kid zone, pancake breakfasts, the annual car show, and plenty of tasty eats.

This year’s theme, Rising Together: 40 Years of Community and Tradition, is a nod to the festival’s massive behind-the-scenes volunteer workforce and the many places it gives back to the community.

Executive director Cindy Murphy knows that propane, heat, and flames may lift the gorgeous balloons into the skies above Cook Park to color the early morning, but it’s people who power the three-day event beginning months before the first inflation.

“We can’t do this without our community,” Cindy Murphy said of the dozens of crews who keep things running from dawn to past dark.

They do everything: work the gates, sell tickets, staff the information booths, direct parking – the standard stuff that keeps any good festival flowing to the extraordinary only-at-a-balloon rally work of crewing for pilots. 

Though some pilots travel with a small crew, most enlist locals to help unpack, tether and pack the balloons, and to follow or “chase” balloons in a car during the flight to meet them after landing.

No experience is needed, but would-be novice crew can get a hands-on lesson during a free balloon school crash course held annually at Cook Park the weekend before the festival. Crew school date is Saturday, June 15, at Cook Family Park.

In return for the effort, volunteers get free admission to the festival all weekend and up-close look at its inner workings.

“Volunteering is another way to enjoy the festival,” Murphy said. 

Without those helping hands, there would be no festival.

“When you drive into the parking lot, the first people you see are the Tigard High Athletic Boosters. They’re going to take your money. Tigard Breakfast Rotary and Boy Scouts will help you park your car. The Athletic Boosters and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Crew manage the admissions and shuttle, Mountain Wave Search and Rescue and the Tigard High School Band help with security. Tigard CERT assists with First Aid, lost children and Lost & Found, and Tigard Safe Grads manages on-site trash and recycling,” said Festival Manager Melissa Summer. “All of these people are volunteering at the event.

It takes about 450 people to help the skeleton of 5-7 paid festival employees ensure the event achieves lift-off. 

Despite the collection of non-profits who staff many of those positions, Murphy said volunteer numbers have been slow to bounce pre-pandemic levels since the festival returned from a 2-year hiatus in 2022.

Like last year, she’s issuing an all-hands-on-deck call to the community, for pre-event promotions, set-up, photography, parking, admissions, shuttle driving, and balloon crew. Volunteers should be at least 15.

For detailed position descriptions and volunteer times, visit the Festival of Balloons online at www.tigardballoon.org/volunteers.

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