By Gary Mitchell
Airabelle the Cow and her friends plan to crash the 33rd annual Pioneer Days party this year — and add a whole new dimension to the event.
Airabelle, an 80-foot-tall by 120-foot-wide balloon shaped like a dairy cow, will lead the charge of more than 30 hot-air balloons during the Pioneer Balloon Jubilee in conjunction with the 2003 Pioneer Days Celebration this year.
“We’re so pumped up about this,” said Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce. “We’re definitely in prayer mode about the weather since it traditionally rains on Pioneer Days weekend. We’ve factored in a huge new event to Pioneer Days with these hot-air balloons. So we need perfect weather — especially for the balloons.”
Liz Eisenbraun, events coordinator for the chamber, said she anticipates more than 30 hot-air balloons to show up at the event, including a number of special-shaped balloons, such as Airabelle, sponsored by the Southwest Dairy Farmers.
“We have the 118-foot-tall Chili Ristras balloon coming from Socorro, and the 80-foot-tall T-Rex balloon from Albuquerque,” she said. “We also have an alien balloon coming from Roswell and Miss Penny the pink piggy bank balloon from Wells Fargo. We’re very excited about it. I’ve had a lot of people say they’re glad it’s coming back to Clovis. We used to have hot-air balloon flights about 15 years ago.”
The balloons will launch north of Plains Regional Medical Center at 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. In addition, a balloon glow is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
The traditional Pioneer Days feature is the annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo to be held at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena on the Curry County Fairgrounds.
“We have more than 300 PRCA cardholder contestants in this year’s rodeo, including a number of world champions,” said Duane Castleberry, captain of the Curry County Mounted Patrol. “That number doesn’t count the local wild cow milkers who will compete in the rodeo. We’ve got more entries this year than we’ve had in the recent past. In fact, we’ve got 50 bull riding entries alone. I think we’ll have a bigger crowd this year, based on ticket sales and the number of entries.”
Advance rodeo tickets are available exclusively at Joe’s Boot Shop, Kos said, not at the chamber office.
“That’s the designated outlet,” she said.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Flying High in Clovis.”
Kos said a special event will be the third annual Pioneer Women of the West Breakfast at 7 a.m. Friday in the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
“We would like for all the pioneer women of the area to join us for the breakfast,” she said. “We’ve defined ‘pioneer women’ as any woman, daughter or granddaughter of a family who homesteaded here in the Clovis area. Some people say ‘pioneer women’ are women who can make biscuits from scratch. We’re hoping to have all types of pioneer women here for this event.”
The Pioneer Days Parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and travel down Main Street. This year’s parade marshal will be Mike Cervi, a rodeo stock/show producer who was recently inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Entry forms to be a part of the parade can be picked up at the chamber office, 215 N. Main St., and completed forms will be accepted until 5 p.m. Thursday, Kos said.
“An added attraction to this year’s parade is that there will be a lot of balloons joining the parade,” she said. “It’ll be a great event.”