This isn't just a lot of hot air (balloon that is.)
But, it does start with one in the form of the water tower you may have noticed on the southern edge of town. That's right, the one that looks like it could lift off at any time, painted in bright primary colors: red, blue, yellow and green.
It's hard to imagine when the tower was a stark white, upside down droplet, set atop a tall, cylindrical pedestal. Even today, it's hard to imagine that this "water balloon", disguised as a hot air balloon, can hold up to 750,000 gallons of our most precious natural resource inside.
The project began in February of 1998 with a suggestion in the York News Times, "Comment Line" by Lynn Christiansen, who saw more than a bleached blob, against the Nebraska Sky when he drove out to the Interstate.
His comment read, "I think the new water tower should be painted like a colorful hot air balloon. It would be distinctive and attractive, and everyone on the interstate would notice and remember it."
In reference to those who would have preferred keeping the tower a blanch, faceless water holder among thousands of other water holders he wrote, "Nobody remembers a town because of the traditional, plain water tower with a name on it. Does anyone else agree?"
It turned out many agreed, including a man named Marty Rousseau and the York Visitors Committee. Several others jumped on this high flying water/air balloon adventure and together raised $17,000 for the project.
In 1999, the City of York was even designated "Balloon City" by the Nebraska Legislature. Once this occurred, there was nowhere the balloon couldn't be spotted. Newspapers across the state and nation picked up the story. Soon the uniquely painted water source, seemingly floating above a field of green corn, could be seen on advertising, t-shirts, lapel pins, coffee cups, stationery . . . the list goes on.
Yet, like I said earlier, this balloon is filled with far more than a lot of hot air (or water). York's grand celebration has already begun. Even more visitors will arrive this coming weekend to see our huge parade and share in the culture and fellowship of our fine city. And, many will see our big, beautiful balloon too—bursting up like a rainbow-colored welcome mat to the city.
In a world that likes to look down a lot, I really like looking up at that balloon. I like its physical appearance, but even more so, being reminded of the importance of sharing an idea—much like Mr. Christiansen did. An idea, that took off with the help of committed residents like Rousseau and a host of other individuals and businesses too numerous to name. The balloon also makes me think of all the other ideas that could take off in this community if more people shared their dreams. Everything, even a hot air balloon/water tower, starts with an idea.
Today, with the transportation and communication systems we have available to us, there's a host of places to go. I too travel the interstate and occasionally get to fly in a plane somewhere far away.
However, I wouldn't trade my home town; where I can have the same hardworking person carry my groceries out to the car. The town where I know the name of whose fixing my vehicle and they even let me go in the shop while changing the oil. York's a place where I can drive up to a store on main street, step inside and immediately someone is asking if they can assist me in any way. It's a warm big/little town that holds a million memories of visits to grandma's house from the farm when I was growing up. I'm biased, but I think it's a special place, with familiar faces, windshield waves and just plain good people.
So, just in case you're out and about this weekend, maybe stop by our hot air balloon. Maybe get your family's photo taken in front of it. Or, just think about the rest of the world and how lucky we are. Think about the sacrifices taking place, as we speak, so we can enjoy our rainbow balloon and call York, Neb. home.