Grab your dancing shoes and get to work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

Native Americans placed great stock in their tribal dances.

Steeped in tradition, their movements, chants and thoughts were aimed at controlling everything from health to the weather.

Dancing in a circle and pouring water was believed to bring rain in some cultures. Whirling around like the wind carried some weight in how the actual wind might blow.

Email newsletter signup

Natchez, Vidalia: It&8217;s time to put on your dancing shoes, get out in the yard and get to it!

Balloon race is the biggest and best annual event in the Miss-Lou, but its success depends entirely on the weather.

I can&8217;t share specific dance steps with you &8212; either the Native Americans didn&8217;t do dances aimed at producing northeasterly winds between 0 and 8 mph, clear skies and gorgeous sunrises, or Google has rudely chosen not to catalog that information &8212; but maybe this is one of those things best left to the creative mind.

I&8217;ve been dancing alone since Friday when balloon race organizer Sally Durkin stopped by our office and said rain was predicted all weekend, in turn crushing my current world.

But since then, we&8217;ve seen progress.

The forecast for Friday morning is partly cloudy with winds around 6 mph from the northeast. By nightfall the winds drop to 5 mph. That will probably work for the early morning flight.

It&8217;s Saturday we need to dance for.

The day brings a chance of storms, winds of 14 mph and gusts up to 28 mph. Not ballooning weather.

Accuweather predictions have another shower Sunday morning, but an OK afternoon.

Balloon race depends on great organizers, a large team of volunteers, willing pilots and a little weather blessing from mother nature.

The first three requirements are already in place, the fourth is our only variable.

I fell in love with the annual event &8212; and in turn, Natchez &8212; three years ago at the balloon glow. As The Democrat&8217;s new reporter, I was scheduled to get the free ride at 6 a.m. Friday morning. I was excited, but not quite sure it was worth the early morning in the freezing conditions.

We set off from the visitor&8217;s center, unpacked the trailer, started setup, then the whole thing got called off. Winds were too strong.

But the pilot I was paired with was nice enough to invite me back that night for the glow. So, I went.

And my obsession began.

I&8217;ve often said balloon race has kept me in Natchez. It&8217;s probably a little bit of a stretch, but it&8217;s definitely a factor. After the first year, I told myself I had to stay around long enough to crew at another race. After the second year, missing the third wasn&8217;t an option.

I love the balloons, love being in the air, love the work involved with getting a balloon up and love being part of the chase crew, but what has really made the event special for me is the people.

I crew (though I&8217;m not sure I&8217;m all that much help) for Randy Sedlak and family of Montgomery, Ala. I&8217;ve fallen in love with his family of six (four daughters), and I look forward to seeing them each year.

But the Sedlaks are only a small portion of the race. Each pilot has a story. Each volunteer has a love for the sport. And each spectator has an interest.

Balloon race is the one event that pulls this community together like no other. Each person has their role, and some never cross paths, but they are all important.

I&8217;ve learned in my three years that this is the one weekend of the year all college students and former residents work like heck to get home for. Not every town has a draw like that.

We should be proud of our event &8212; proud enough to get out in the streets and do a little weather dance, tribal style.

Julie Finley

is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or