Trumpeter Swan Balloon Club fonds. — 1980-2001. — 8 cm of textual records. — 3 photographs.
In June 1978, city officials worried that Canada Week celebrations would fall apart unless more community assistance was forthcoming. A plea for help was sent out and ex-resident Harold Warner of Calgary heard it. Since he was to be in the area anyway, he made an historic offer to the mayor of Grande Prairie. And so it was that on July 1, 1978, with Mayor Al Romanchuk on board singing “O Canada” through a megaphone, the first ever hot air balloon ascended from Grande Prairie soil, adding a very special note to the local salute to Canada on her 111th birthday.
From that event evolved the Richmond Realty 1978 Peace Country Balloon Races. It was staged just a month later, over the Civic Holiday weekend in August. Terry Williams of Richmond Realty was the organizer, assisted by Ron Lessoway, and Harold Warner returned to co-ordinate the balloon events. Following these two events, because the south Peace landscape lends itself so well to ballooning, plus the fact that the public, news media, balloon pilots, volunteers and organizers were so responsive, Grande Prairie was awarded the Canadian National Championships in 1979. By then Frank Tesar of Grande Prairie had his “Yellow Canary” balloon and was a participant in the Fiesta events.
It was in the midst of this culture that, on September 10, 1980, the Trumpeter Swan Balloon Club was formed as a registered society. The original directors were Ron Lessoway, George Thomlinson, Harold Warner, Carolee Eckhardt, Dan Balisky, Terry Williams and John Powers. The first object of the club was “to carry on the sport of hot air ballooning in general among the members of the Society and to teach and train persons in the art and science of hot air ballooning and operation of all manner of hot air balloons.” To that end “The Spirit of Grande Prairie” balloon was purchased in the winter of 1980-81. The first flight was on May 25, 1981, with pilot Harold Warner. The balloon was used to train pilots as well as many crew members, who were schooled in the safety and deployment of the balloons through training seminars, but mainly through the hands-on experience of being a member of the club.
For fifteen years, the Trumpeter Swan Balloon Club was active in local, provincial and national hot air balloon competitions. They also collaborated with the Hot Air Balloon Events Association in organizing events in the Grande Prairie area. In 1996, with club members dwindling for both organizations, the two clubs joined under the Association. “The Spirit of Grande Prairie” balloon was donated to the Grande Prairie Museum in 2004, when it became too old and costly to maintain.
The legacy of the Trumpeter Swan Balloon Club was that it brought ballooning to the level of the community, making it a safe and viable family sport in Grande Prairie.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of legal docments, such as objectives, by-laws and annual corporate summaries; minutes of the club from 1980-1990; a file on the specifications, purchase and use of “The Spirit of Grande Prairie”, including the flight log book and photographs of the balloon; financial records; correspondence; and communications from associated organizations such as the Canadian Balloon Assoc., the Alberta Free Balloonist Society, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board, and Transport Canada.
Title based on the contents of the fonds.