Neighbor Day celebrates Ponderay

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PONDERAY — The sky's the limit at the upcoming Ponderay Neighbor Day as organizers will raffle off free, tethered hot air balloon rides throughout the afternoon of Sept. 23 — weather permitting, of course.

The weather, at this time, is calling for "cool and clear," said KayLeigh Miller, Ponderay's assistant planner, so "hopefully" it is accurate. No matter the weather, though, there will be plenty of fun to go around.

"There is going to be kids activities — we've got pony rides and other things lined up," said Susan Drumheller with the Friends of the Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail, an event sponsor, during a Ponderay City Council meeting last month.

Ponderay Neighbor Day will include fun for entire family, including a special appearance by the storybook celebrity, Curious George, courtesy of the East Bonner County Library. And, while this family-fun event celebrates Ponderay, the community trail and its immediate neighbors, everyone throughout the region is invited.

The event will also feature live music by the Miah Kohal Band, carnival games, arts and crafts for kids, food vendors, beer garden, bounce house and more.

"Celebrating Our Connections" is the theme of Ponderay Neighbor Day, and there is plenty to celebrate in the community, event organizers said in a statement. Known as the "Little City with the Big Future," Ponderay has a well-run community transit system with the SPOT bus, and is working to expand its trail and park system. These networks help keep locals and visitors connected to the little city by the lake, the statement says.

Erik Brubaker, Ponderay city planner, said while this is the first event of its kind, it was inspired by a summer event that no longer exists — Ponderay Days. That event was sponsored by the Ponderay Community Development Corporation, not the city, Brubaker said.  

"So we were looking for ways to get the businesses in the community and the residents and everyone together," Brubaker said.

Ponderay Neighbor Day attendees will have the chance to give feedback on how to improve trails and access to waterfront, in exchange for a chance to win a ride on the hot air balloon. Space in the balloon is limited and will only be available through the free raffle during the event.

The hot air balloon will rise up to 75 feet over Ponderay to give a bird’s-eye view of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the area of future expansion for a railroad underpass. Drumheller said the Friends of the Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail are trying to do more outreach to let the community know about the ongoing project to get the railroad underpass that would connect the trail to Ponderay under the existing railroad tracks.

"A lot of people here don't know anything about our work and what we are trying to do," Drumheller said.

The Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail spans 1.4 miles along the lakeshore between Sandpoint and Ponderay. The only access to the trail at this time is in Sandpoint, so an underpass would provide access from Ponderay as well.

The gates will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. in the field behind the Hoot Owl. Admittance is free. Parking is available off Emerald Industrial Drive and the SPOT bus will operate a special route in Ponderay and Kootenai to bring people to and from the site.

Ponderay Neighbor Day is sponsored by the LOR Foundation, the city of Ponderay, Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, Selkirk-Pend Oreille Transit, Kaniksu Land Trust, P1FCU, Keokee, Montana Shed Center, and Ace Septic Tank Service with additional support from local businesses and the Kootenai-Ponderay Sewer District.

A variety of additional sponsorships, booths and volunteer opportunities are still available. Contact Jean Vorhies, event coordinator, for details on how to get involved in this community event, call 208-946-6466 or email jrvorhies@hotmail.com.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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