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Sky's the limit at balloon festival
BALLOONS2 9-3-12
Turlocks Brooke Ford, 9, runs back to her family after posing for a photo next to the hot air balloons during Sundays Color the Skies Festival in Ripon benefitting the Central Valley Childrens Hospital. - photo by HIME ROMERO / The Journal


The enthusiasm for a successful hot air balloon festival was not diminished by the wind that kept the balloons grounded during a planned media event at Mistlin Sports Park in Ripon on Saturday.

Organizers for the two-day fund-raising event in support of the Children’s Hospital Central California located in Madera introduced Color the Skies’ 9-year-old ambassador Bella Gardette to the press as the Re/Max balloon team filled their massive envelope with hot air to provide a backdrop for the morning.

Young Bella is one of many “heart and soul” success stories the hospital has added to its history of diagnosing and treating of life-threatening childhood diseases.

Bella told her pilot Roger Barker that she was both excited and somewhat scared about taking her first flight in a balloon.  With her mom Rachelle standing at her side, she asked him to autograph the event’s full color program for her to keep as a memory of the flight.

A clinical geneticist at the hospital diagnosed Bella with DiGeorge Syndrome – a rare chromosomal disorder that causes a child to develop with a small stature.  She had also had related speech impediments that were corrected with surgery.

Although grounded on Saturday, the skies above the Valley were full of colorful hot air balloons on Sunday.

The festival is looking for the perfect photo to put on the cover of next year’s event program.  To submit a photo go to, sign in as “Username: Color_The_Skies and Password: Balloons7 and upload photos. Seventh grader Kailey Stone’s photograph was the 2012 Color the Skies cover winner.