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Athletes of Distinction

North Central Texas College Athletes Volunteer at Balloon Festival

GAINESVILLE – North Central Texas College athletes were able to give back to the community and have some fun at the same time during the first-ever The Sky’s The Limit Balloon Spectacular in Gainesville Sept. 7-9.

The event, which benefitted the North Texas Medical Center Foundation, brought in more than 20 hot-air balloons for the three-day event. Despite windy conditions playing havoc with balloon flying on Fridaynight and Saturday, thousands of people attended the festival.

NCTC athletes from the baseball, softball and tennisteams volunteered part of their weekend to work the event, serving as balloon crew members on Friday and Saturday and scorers on Sunday.

On Friday morning, Lady Lion softball players arrived at the airport at 6 a.m., to be paired with a balloon pilot and work on their crew as they launched from various points south of the Gainesville Municipal Airport. Friday’s launches were for media sponsors of the event.

Two of the softball players, sophomore Rachel Kidwell and freshman Autumn Walker, were invited to take a ride with their pilot. The balloon lifted off from a staging area south of Lindsay and landed north of the Gainesville Municipal Airport.

“It was thrilling and amazing,” Kidwell said. “It should be on everyone’s bucket list. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The NCTC baseball team got involved in the fun Saturday afternoon as they were able to work on balloon crews for the highly-popularballoon glow after sunset.

“It was really neat to be around that. I’ve been to a few balloon festivals, but it was really fun to participate in blowing them up, getting in the van and following our guy,” NCTC head baseball coach Scott Harp said. “It was a lot of work, but that was easier than keeping them grounded while they were inflated. But our guys had a lot of fun. The zoo was was pretty fun because they got our guys to dress up in banana suits. They were prettypopular. Everyone wanted to get their picture made with them and get them to sign their cards. Overall it was a lot of fun. I don’t think most of them had ever been to a balloon festival. It was a great experience. We would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Early Sunday morning, the Lady Lion tennis team worked as scorers for the final event of the festival, a contest where balloon pilots tried to drop bean bags as close to pre-determined targets as possible.

All the coaches agree that volunteering at events like this is important.

“That’s something that we have always tried to instill, since we are a community college, it’s important to help within the community and get out there,” Harp said. “It was a lot of fun to see all the athletes go out there and help. It’s important to be seen out there. Even though we come from all over, we do get involved in the community.”

North Texas Medical Center Director of Marketing Gayla Blanton thanked the college’s student-athletes of helping with the event.

“The Sky’s The Limit Balloon Spectacular could not have been possible without the tremendous support of our community volunteer,” Blanton said. “Whether working at a gate, in the children’s zone, decorating the ball or crewing for a balloon, the volunteers were integral to the success of this event.”

Top photo: Members of the North Central Texas College softball team worked on balloon crews at The Sky's The Limit Balloon Spectacular in Gainesville Sept. 7. The event raised money for the local hospital's foundation.

The North Central Texas College baseball team worked as volunteers at a hot-air balloon festival in Gainesville Sept. 8. The players served on balloon crews and assisted pilots as they took off and landed.

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