By Ernie Over
The 42nd annual Riverton Hot Air Balloon Rally kicks off this weekend at the Central Wyoming College Soccer Field at sunrise on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s always a fun time to be there before the sun comes up and watch the balloons inflate and then rise into the air.
Most balloons have a trading card with the balloons image and pilot’s name, and some even have pins made that an admirer can wear on their lapel.
This year’s Balloon Rally pin for the Riverton Rendezvous features images of Cloud Kisser IV and Cloud Kisser II, you know 42! There are other interesting aspects of this year’s pin, too. To see what I’m talking about, go get one and study it. The puzzles will soon pop out at you.
I went looking just the other day as I usually collected a balloon pin for each year of the rally. My oldest pin dates back to 1993, two years before I moved back home. So, I must’ve gotten it from another collector. Perhaps a garage sale. At one time I was hoping to have a pin from each year, but somewhere along the line, that hope was dashed as I have some gaps in the years.
At any rate, it’s fun to look back at the various shapes, styles and such of the previous year’s pins.
When I was on the Staff of the Wyoming Travel Commission back in the late 70s and early 80s, we would go to various sports and travel shows around the country. At the time, we had the “hottest” pin, that being the iconic gold colored metal “Wyoming Pin” with Wyoming printed across the image of Steamboat, the horse on our license plate. You still see it around these days, although with some different sizes. You can still get some at the Wyoming State Museum’s Gift Shop in Cheyenne. And they have the plastic ones, too. But I like the metal one best.
But, back to the travel shows. Each exhibitor usually would have a pin representing their state, or province, or country. I began collecting pins from my travel colleagues back then and ended up with a sandwich bag full. I must’ve put it away somewhere safe as I can’t find it now!
I do recall that my favorite pins were the out of country ones. From Canada, the Bahamas, Italy, Mexico, England, Scotland, France, Nepal and Norway, to name a few. Most recently I’ve collected pins when Rotary Friendship Exchange groups pass through: The United Kingdom, India, Finland, Sweden, Australia and Italy as examples. And I have a couple from Taiwan on my travels to that country.
Over the years of collecting, I think the ones that stand out were the pins from various Olympic Committees, and NBC pins from the games they covered. The one that is most poignant is one I found at a garage sale from the Olympics in Sarajevo. Those games were soon overshadowed, and venues destroyed in the war in the Balkans.
One of my favorite pins came from Nestle. They sponsored the Starship Enterprise float in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Parade a few years after Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator, and my employer in Los Angles, passed away. At the time it was the longest and highest float. Nestle put Gene’s wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, her mother, Gene’s son Rod, and myself in the big grandstand where the parade begins. I remember they plied us with hot chocolate as the mornings before the parade can be quite chilly. It was an impressive float, and I have the pin to remember that day fondly.
So, this weekend, talk to the balloon pilots and see if they have any swag to give away. It’s a fun way for a youngster to begin collecting. And don’t forget to get your 42nd year pin for the Riverton Rendezvous.
Ernie Over is an employee owner and the news director of the five-station Wind River Radio Network in Fremont and Hot Springs counties, the editor of Wyotoday.com’s local news Internet site, and a staff member of The Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News