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#24: Riverton, Wyoming
July 15, 2006


With just over 500,000 people, Wyoming is the least populous state in the U.S. -- even the District of Columbia has more residents. The Wyoming state seal features a woman holding a banner proclaiming "Equal Rights", celebrating Wyoming's history as the first state to allow women to vote and hold elected office. The state flag features this same seal printed on the side of on an unsuspecting buffalo, "representing the custom of branding" according to the state website. With respect to the red, white and blue of the flag, the website provides the following explanation: "The red border represents the Indian; also the blood of the pioneers who gave their lives reclaiming the soil. White is the emblem of purity and uprightness over Wyoming. Blue, the color of the sky and mountains, is symbolic of fidelity, justice and virility."


Riverton, Wyoming is a town of about 10,000 people, located in the central part of the state along the Wind River. Long before the city was founded, the future site of Riverton was the spot where the Mountain Men, the earliest white pioneers of the West, held their annual Rendezvous in 1830 and again in 1838. These normally solitary frontiersmen traveled many hundreds of miles each year to the Rendezvous. There, they bartered beaver pelts for trade goods, swapped endless tall tales and argued heatedly about who had the best furry hat.

Mountain Mannequin and Significant Other



Riverton itself was actually founded in 1906, on land purchased from the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians of the surrounding Wind River reservation. Water from the Wind River supports trees and surrounding farms in the otherwise sere landscape. Originally a farming community, after World War Two the city enjoyed several decades of growth as a center of uranium mining. Today, Riverton is the the largest city in west-central Wyoming and the major commercial center for the area.




The tradition of the Rendezvous has been kept alive with the Riverton Rendezvous, a community event each July featuring a hot-air balloon rally and car show. In 2006, I was invited by balloonmeister Pat Newlin to do a cluster balloon flight at the Riverton Rendezvous Balloon Rally. Since 2006 was also the 100th anniversary of the founding of Riverton, I decided to commemorate the Centennial by floating over the city with a special birthday bouquet of 100 balloons.

The fifth anniversary of the founding of Riverton in 1911 was celebrated with one of the first airplane flights in Wyoming (photo courtesy of Riverton Museum)



The Balloon Rally took place on the athletic field at Central Wyoming College. Volunteers from the Riverton Wal-Mart and from EnCana, an energy company with operations in Riverton, showed up at 4 AM to help inflate my 100 balloons, as did many of the crew from the hot-air balloons.








As the sun rose, my crew began attaching the 100 balloons to me. I would be launching first, along with the Riverton balloon, the Cloud-Kisser III.



The spectators seemed intrigued but skeptical.