Taking flight truly takes a village

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It’s Monday; the 2010 Great Mississippi River Balloon Race has come and gone, but the work still continues.

As I write, I’m watching the Natchez Visitor Center maintenance staff through my office window, take down barricades and load them onto a dolly. And, I know if I took a drive over to Rosalie right now, Ed Godfrey and his crew would be cleaning up the grounds and breaking down the food booths.

Mimi Miller is most likely at the Historic Foundation packing away what little shirt inventory she has left, and Judy Wilson is at her office sifting through invoices and clicking away on her adding machine.

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My point is, that most people have no idea how many people it takes to make this event the success it is. I’ve been getting kudos and applause on Facebook and on the street all weekend long, but so much gratitude goes to so many others, that I thought I’d take time to acknowledge them so you’ll know who they are and what they contribute to this race.

On a personal note, and it’s just because they fall under my specific race department, I have to send out a tremendous thanks to all the local folks who come out year after year to crew for the balloons; it’s hard work and they do a fantastic job.

I also have to thank the crew members who travel from various points and pay for a hotel room so they can be here to help crew also.

Babs Price has now served her first year as executive director of the race, and she was baptized by fire because we had hotel room problems early on, but we worked together to iron them out. Thank you to the Grand Soleil, Natchez Grand, Isle of Capri, Hampton Inn and Best Western for providing what we needed. If you happen to be friends on Facebook with any of the following people, or happen to see them on the street in the future, be sure to thank them for all their hard work too:

Mimi Miller, sponsor co-coordinator, site vendors, and shirt sales

Peter Burns, balloon glow coordinator

Trippy Shields, Vidalia balloon glow coordinator/site assistant

Patricia Catchings, sponsor co-coordinator

Melody Fuqua, gate and ticket manager

Ken Price, beverage manager

Judy Wilson, race accounting

Tate Hobdy, race insurance manager

Stephen Guido, pilot relations/search and rescue

Eugenie Cates, publicity co-chair

Ed and Laura Godfrey, site logistics

Connie Taunton, pilot registration

Lindsay Devening, pilot/sponsor liaison

Rachel Lott, publicity co-chair

Jimmy McCarstle, talent/stage and sound

Cappy Stahlman, executive board and advisor

Candi Davis, race officials liaison

Sharon Goodrich, sports bar tent manager.

As you can see, to tout that “it takes a village,” truly hits the mark when it comes to putting on an event of this magnitude.

But it also takes a lot of money, so I would be remiss to not thank all of our wonderful sponsors, from those who sponsor the balloons individually, to those who provide significant dollar and in-kind support to help make it happen.

And, from the bottom of all our hearts, an enormous thank you to everyone who comes out and buys a ticket, or a T-shirt or tickets for their kids to ride at the carnival.

It is all of you who support it that truly make it a great success.

Sally Durkin handles pilot registration, crew and press relations for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.