Photo cutline: Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park hosted the pilots and crews of the 2023 Gila Valley Balloon Festival. [Photograph submitted by EAC Discovery Park.]
THATCHER, Ariz.— Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park hosted the pilots and crews of the 2023 Gila Valley Balloon Festival on December 30, 2023. More than 20 balloon owners, hailing from various western states, participated in the "Extravaganza!" event, led by local balloon operators Greg and Susan Lindsey of AZ Air Adventures.
EAC Discovery Park Director Paul Anger, accompanied by his wife Tawnie Anger, extended a warm welcome to the guest balloonists. During their visit, the pilots, crews, and their families engaged in an afternoon of exploration, learning about the Gila Valley, the telescopes at the Mt. Graham International Observatory, and experiencing the various displays and activities.
Anger guided the group through a tour of EAC Discovery Park's facilities. Highlights included observing the 20” Tinsley Telescope in the Gov Aker Observatory, experiencing the Camera Obscura in the Jupiter room, and delving into the history of astronomy in the educational galleries. The group also enjoyed rides on the Polaris Shuttle Simulator, viewed a video about the Large Binocular Telescope, and explored the Augmented Reality Sandbox.
The tour culminated with a demonstration of the Grand Kiva’s acoustics, a visit to the Native Heritage Museum showcasing artifacts from the Mill’s Collection of Native American pottery, and a drawing for fun prizes.
Reflecting on the experience, Anger remarked, "This was a really special group to spend time with. We’ve often seen the beautiful balloons flying in the early mornings, and it was wonderful to get to know the pilots and the people behind the balloons." He added, "I’m already looking forward to next year’s event and having some more fun with them."