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Festival founder Grishkot extolled by balloonists, officials

In a tribute to Adirondack Balloon Festival founder Walt Grishkot, balloonist John Outzen draped a giant American flag from his craft Thursday Sept. 22 during the opening ceremony of the 2011 festival. Outzen noted that for years, Grishkot loved this traditional patriotic salute.

In a tribute to Adirondack Balloon Festival founder Walt Grishkot, balloonist John Outzen draped a giant American flag from his craft Thursday Sept. 22 during the opening ceremony of the 2011 festival. Outzen noted that for years, Grishkot loved this traditional patriotic salute. Photo by Thom Randall.

— During the opening ceremonies Thursday, Post-Star Maury Thompson signed and sold copies of his book “The Biggest Kid at the Balloon Festival: The Walter Grishkot Story," which not only explores Grishkot’s work with the festival, but his earlier work as a photographer and stunt-loving promoter for Warren County.

“We all owe a lot of gratitude to Walt for all his enthusiasm and work,” Thompson said.

Balloon pilot Rich Wiedenhaefer of Easton Pa., recalled Grishkot’s enthusiasm as he readied to set up his balloon that resembles a giant strawberry. A commercial airline pilot, Wiedenhaefer was in town with with his wife and friends and a half-dozen other balloonists and their crews for the fest.

“Walt was so upbeat and gregarious,” he recalled. “To be a balloonist, you have to think positive, particularly about the weather and wind — and Walt was such an optimist.”

Balloon pilot John Outzen of Litchfield New Hampshire commented about Grishkot as he attached an American flag to his craft's basket.

Moments later, the balloon ascended in a tethered flight with the flag draping over the crowd, in a salute to Grishkot.

Outzen said that the fest’s founder loved this traditional display of patriotism, as he recalled his character.

“Walter was always so happy, so accommodating,” Outzen said. “He was very forthcoming and never held back — he was always willing to help anyone in need.”

Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond looked out over the crowd that applauded Grishkot as the balloon rose upward, displaying the American flag.

“Though Walt has gone to his eternal rest, his spirit lives on, soaring with the hot air balloons that dot the sky each autumn here,” he said.

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