There’s a new addition to our tourist businesses that is sure to please. Bigfoot Balloons has opened and is ready to lift off immediately. The balloon season will extend until around mid-September
Owners Jake Thomas and Shannon Tuck moved here from Chattanooga, Tenn., lured by the opportunity to fly their balloons out of a mountain town where they can also enjoy paragliding.
“Those two things kind of sucked us in,” said Thomas.
They’re avid outdoors people who enjoy hiking, riding dirt bikes, flying in wingsuits or paragliding and more.
They launch their balloon from the Joseph baseball field on N. Lake Street at sunrise and the three-hour trip includes an hour of gliding at 2,000 feet wherever the wind blows (mostly out over the Zumwalt Prairie). The excursion includes the flight, setup, packing up and champagne toast. You can go up in a shared flight or your group can book an exclusive flight.
They are offering discounts to local folks.
Call Bigfoot Balloons at (423) 443-7994 or visit them at bigfootballons.com.
• Folks at the head of the lake are welcoming a new facilities manager for the Wallowa Lake Tram. Perry Batten, a former Wallowa County resident and graduate of Enterprise High School, has “come home” to act as lift maintenance and operations manager.
“I was trying to get home,” Batten said. “It was time after 20 plus years of living in California. In all the places I’ve been in the last 20 years, there’s no place that compares to here. The people, the mountains –– it’s always been home.”
Batten originally left Wallowa County to make a career and chase good skiing conditions. He moved to Kirkwood, Calif., to manage a big ski area with 16 lifts and act as lift maintenance and operations manager.
The move back to Wallowa is a vertical move because the tram operation offers so many more responsibilities, he said. He’ll be working on some upgrades to equipment, a complete cosmetic overhaul of the gondolas, managing the facilities of the restaurant and cabins and more.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Batten said. “It seems like it’s been a seamless transition.”
Batten is the son of Doug and Carol Batten of Enterprise. He is married to Adrianne and has two children, Keith, 15, who attends Joseph Charter School and Henry, who is almost a year old.
Batten will continue to get his skiing in doing “a lot of backcountry skiing” and using his time off to travel to experience the snow sports in other areas.
• Congrats to Kim Tippett of Community Bank, who retired last month after 18 years with Community Bank.
She began as a teller in 1999, working in both Enterprise and Joseph branches. In 2010 she took on a new role as the loan file coordinator and was promoted to staff accountant in 2012.
“Kim is always super upbeat and positive,” said Leah Johnson, marketing manager of Joseph Community Bank. “She always had a smile on her face and was just a pleasure to work with. No matter what the task in any position, she was always finding ways to improve efficiency.”
Kim’s retirement plans include adding more lakes to her Wallowa Mountain hiking to-do list and catching up on reading, painting and visits with family.