The sky is going to look a little emptier this year. The 2021 Walla Walla Balloon Stampede has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, event organizers announced Tuesday, Sept. 14.
“It is with great sadness we announce that the 2021 Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is canceled,” event organizers wrote.
Event sponsors and organizers came to the conclusion that the yearly hot air balloon convergence, which fills the skies over Walla Walla each year with color and lighter-than-air levity, could not take place while COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
“This was a difficult decision that we didn’t want to make, but we feel that the safety of the Walla Walla community is top priority,” organizers wrote.
It’s been a tough last two years for the Balloon Stampede. The festival’s longtime coordinator, Scott Spencer, died at the beginning of 2020 at the age of 65. Faced with the pandemic, the event was postponed in 2020 and ultimately canceled.
After a difficult 2020, 2021 was supposed to be the year of a triumphant return for the 46th annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede.
“We feel very comfortable this year that with vaccines available … that we’ll be in really good shape to have the event,” said Laurie Spencer, producer of the event from Lighter than Air America, in April.
“Of course, we’ll follow all of the local and state guidelines that are put out, in case there is a need to do that,” Spencer said five months ago.
But rising COVID-19 cases both regionally and across the country have once again let the air out.
“We look forward to our return once a safe environment returns,” organizers wrote Tuesday.