SALTON SEA – The north shore of the Salton Sea was awash with hot air balloons glowing Saturday night as the second annual Seafest finished an activity-filled day dedicated to highlighting the Sea in a positive manner with the “Lowest Glow on Earth.”
“We like things that glow in the dark,” said Indio resident Jonathan Castellon as he watched the balloons light up. “It’s only a couple balloons, but it’s still something to look at. You don’t see hot air balloons every day, especially blowing up right in front of your face.”
The Seathletes hosted the day, a group dedicated to spreading awareness about the Salton Sea.
The Great California Balloon Race, what would have set a record for being the lowest altitude hot air balloon race ever, was scheduled for the morning along with balloon rides for spectators. However, due to high winds the balloons were unable to inflate and rise safely.
Seathletes founder Davy Aker said the idea was to give people a fun recreational day at the Salton Sea. Aker added the mission of Seathletes is to get people on and near the Sea to change how they view it.
“The people who don’t want to be on the water can totally be out here tonight and enjoy the balloons,” said Aker, “and then they can look at this backdrop and go, wow, maybe I should start changing how I feel about this place.”
It was also the opening day for the KaiWai Kayaking group created by Seathletes. KaiWai takes children out on the water and teaches them to kayak and paddle as well as informing the public of the many fun activities to be had on the Sea.
The group has recently become affiliated with the KaiWai branch in San Diego and is planning to make trips to the National City area so kids can paddle on the ocean.
Later in the day, a seaside market was held along with a vintage car show. Two new canoes were also blessed to mark the beginning of the kayaking season for Seathletes.
In the evening, the 15 pilots returned and lined the shore with their huge balloons in preparation for the “Lowest Glow on Earth.”
Though the evening winds made it difficult to have all 15 balloons up, three were determined to put on a show for the gathered crowd. The flames of the balloons went off in sequence, lighting the night with a beautiful orange glow. Towards the end of the night, the other pilots began sending their own flames into the air without balloons, an action called “candlelighting.”
“It’s exciting since we didn’t get to see them this afternoon,” said Izzy Magos. “It is really neat.”
One couple, Kim and Lorri McPeck of Santa Ana, said they had been to the Salton Sea in the ’60s during its hey-day and were sad to see the state it is in.
“They need to do something to get this all back,” said Kim McPeck.
Both were enthusiastic about the idea of the KaiWai program for the area’s children.
“It’s great, a positive thing for the kids to do!” said Lorri McPeck. “Couldn’t be anything better.”
This was the second Seafest hosted at the Salton Sea and the first time with the hot air balloons. Most of the pilots had just returned from the famous Albuquerque Balloon Festival in New Mexico last week and they traveled to Southern California for Seafest.
Aker stated over 2,000 people attended this year’s Seafest, a huge jump from last year’s 200.
Seathletes began three years ago on the shores of the Salton Sea with a bet between friends. Aker said he could prove the Salton Sea was not toxic, and if he did, his friend agreed to do a canoe race at the Sea with him. One positive health test and three years later, the bet has exploded into the organization that hosts kayaking races, kids clubs, lessons, and Seafests on the shores of the Sea.