Guido wins Steckler award

Published 12:49 am Monday, October 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — On Friday night when it was announced that Stephen Guido was this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Steckler award, Guido wasn’t around to accept the honor.

But anyone who knows Guido wasn’t surprised by that.

During the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Guido is on the ground and in the air, on a four-wheeler or in a balloon, flying his personal balloon or helping other pilots out of a muddy field.

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He’s everywhere, but in front of people accepting praise.

And it is exactly that selfless dedication that made Guido a fitting winner of the Steckler Award, organizers said.

Named in honor of the late Dr. David Steckler, the award is given annually to a balloon race volunteer who exhibits Steckler’s dedication to the betterment of the balloon race and the community.

Even though Guido has been a race volunteer since 1988, he never thought he’d be placed in the same ranks as Steckler.

“I was surprised, very surprised,” Guido said. “I never thought of getting anything like that when I was volunteering. I just enjoy it.”

Since 1988, Guido has helped locate balloons landing in Mississippi and Louisiana, organized a search and rescue team of law enforcement, four-wheel drive vehicles, boats, airplanes and helicopters and worked to create landowner relationships to allow for landings on private and city-owned property.

Each year he sponsors a balloon for the Natchez race.

In 2000, Guido donated his office staff to handle pilot correspondence and registration.

“When James Biglane asked me to help, we were behind the mall, and he said ‘I wonder how fast those winds are blowing,’” Guido said. “I said ‘Well, I can go get in my airplane and fly with the wind and then turn around and fly into the wind and subtract the difference and that’s the wind speed.’

“He looked at me and said ‘Alright, I guess that will work.’”

Since then, Guido hasn’t missed a race.

Despite all the groundwork he does, each year Guido participates in the race as a pilot.

But even when he’s flying, he’s still helping other pilots. Guido routinely has to help retrieve pilots from landing spots.

“I try to get inflated fast and take off first so I can get out in front of the other pilots,” he said. “I’ll fly and land quick, and then go get them.”

He is a past winner of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and the current Mississippi state champion after wining the race in Canton.

But still, he said, he never thought about being honored for his work.

“David Steckler is one of my favorite people,” Guido said. “Because he really did volunteer for everything.”

Guido said it would be hard to emulate Steckler’s commitment to the community, but he was happy to be honored with the Steckler Award.

“When (David Steckler) wanted something done, he didn’t wait for people to volunteer, he just did it,” Guido said. “When people would start saying ‘David, I can’t believe you are doing that,’ he’d say ‘You want to help? Come on.’

“He was a doer.”

With all the hours he has put in over the years, Guido could be classified as a doer as well.

But he’d never admit it.

“I like to be behind the lines,” Guido said. “I don’t like a lot of praise and glory.”