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Big balloons lift off this weekend

Organizer Dave Nicoli promises a bigger and better Tigard Festival of Balloons this year
by: Jonathan House, NIGHT GLOW — Kids enjoy a close-up look at the balloons during Night Glow at the 2005 RE/MAX Tigard Festival of Balloons. This year’s Night Glow is scheduled for Friday.

TIGARD - For the third year in a row, Dave Nicoli is watching the skies - and he's not looking for the 27 balloons that will participate in this weekend's Tigard Festival of Balloons.

The organizer of the festival is checking the weather, and he also wants to correct the record.

'Twenty-seven balloons is good,' Nicoli said. 'I want to remind people that they lift off by 7:30 a.m. every morning and also tell people not to listen to the news. Last year, they said we didn't launch, and we did, every day.

'What counts is the weather over Cook Park, and even if the balloons don't go up, the pilots play games.'

Despite a decade-plus of balloon festivals in the city's largest park, every year people show up at all hours of the day expecting to see the giant balloons lift off. The hot air balloons must lift off early in the morning while the air is still and there are no breezes to interfere with the flights.

But activities go on from dawn to dark Friday through Sunday afternoon.

There's the popular Night Glow, during which the burners in about six balloons are fired up at dusk so they stand upright and glow from within.

This year, a fund-raiser dinner and auction is being held within viewing distance of the Night Glow to benefit the Tigard-Tualatin School District's Caring Closet program. It provides food, household items and clothing to 'working poor' families in the district who do not qualify for social services.

Tickets at $40 each are still for sale by contacting Susan Morelli at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 503-332-7012.

On Saturday, there are loads of activities to choose from, including the Haggen 5K Walk/Run, the Northwest Studebaker Drivers Club-Landmark Ford Auto Cruise In that will feature lots of awards and prizes, an ASA softball tournament and a 6 vs. 6 soccer tournament that is expected to draw about 60 teams.

'The soccer tournament is going to be big,' Nicoli said. 'The games are shorter than a regular tournament.'

Funtastic Traveling Shows will operate a carnival all three days, and there will be 'killer' music.

This year there will be one main stage and a smaller stage that will feature ongoing dance recitals and local talent.

The main stage will be reserved for the big bands that on Friday include Slam, Doubletrouble and Pressure Point. Saturday brings Shwing Daddies, David Klinkenberg and Power to Ten, and on Sunday, the popular Southlake Band will play.

'The weather forecast looks decent - not nearly as bad as last year - and we will have more vendors,' Nicoli said. 'People don't realize that we have lots of vendors. And the beer garden will be bigger.

'There's a lot more going on this year, and everything is bigger.'

Tickets to enter the festival cost $5 and are good for the entire run, whether people buy them Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

People also may pay $5 to park at Tigard High School and ride free shuttles down to Cook Park, or they may choose to park free farther away.

One of the many benefits of the festival is the income it brings to local civic organizations and school groups.

For example, the Tigard Breakfast Rotary Club will collect money in the parking lot, and the Tigard Noon Rotary Club will sell admission tickets. The THS football team will work with city crews cleaning up the park during the festival, and the THS Thespians will help clean up after the event.

'The goal was to get as many volunteer groups as possible to make money,' Nicoli said. 'There is a very active base of people working down there in the park. If we make our goal, $50,000 will go to non-profit groups.

'I'm really excited about it. This is my third year running the festival, and it's just getting leaner and meaner.'

For more information, visit www.tigardballoon.org.