Plans, fundraising for new mural underway

Courtesy photos

TOP: Above is a concept mock-up for the mural on the retaining wall opposite the existing mural at the top of the viaduct on University, designed by Brad Appleby; this is not the final design, this holds ideas that may or may not be included in the final mural.

BOTTOM: Hot Air balloon enthusiasts Rich Olstad, Dave Christensen, Petra Wilson and Rodney Watts had a moment of fun at the Mueller Center Tuesday evening during the Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons mural fund raiser event.


By Charity Maness

HOT SPRINGS – Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons held a FUN-d raiser at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs on April 18 to help raise funds for a new patriotic-themed mural project on the north side of University Avenue.

The event offered smoked pork sandwiches made by Marty Malenke, desserts and sides for a free-will donation as well as a silent auction and raffle.

The highlight was the 69,000 cubic foot hot air balloon in the center that could be walked right into.

“I brought my older balloon named the High Seas,” explained Western Horizons owner Petra Wilson of the huge balloon.  “It is no longer air-worthy so perfect for a walk in balloon.”

The High Seas came to town with quite a splash in 2015.

 “That balloon caused a lot of commotion,” said Wilson. 

“In 2015 people here hadn’t seen many balloons yet,” she explained. “I had launched out of Fall River Health services and was planning to head toward Angostura, but the wind switched and brought me back over town. Here I was in this little green balloon over town when the winds stopped, I was going about 1 mile per hour. When I flew over the VA the townspeople had begun to follow me and were cheering for me. The police came out and told me I couldn’t land my balloon just anywhere. I tried to explain what I was trying to do. My husband called me because he heard the ambulance was on standby due to a rumor of a balloon in trouble. I finally landed on a dirt road and the police handed me their phone and told me the FAA wanted to talk to me. I explained who I was and gave them my information and they said all was well.”

Now that the High Sea’s flying days are over, Wilson hopes its use on the ground as a walk-in will help raise funds for a new mural on University.

“I really hadn’t intended on creating a second mural,” said Wilson, in regards to the first balloon mural on the opposite wall at the top of the viaduct along University Avenue. Yet the same reason she envisioned the first is the same for the second.

“Each day I dropped off my kids and picked them up at school I noticed the cement wall at the Evangelical Church had a collection of graffiti,” she recalled of how the glimmer of an idea began. “But I realized as I drove around town, none of the walls with murals on them had graffiti. So of course I wondered if we could paint the wall, thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nicer than graffiti?’, and possibly, once painted, not get graffiti on it.” 

It worked.

So now when she drives her children to and from school, she couldn’t help but notice the opposite wall has graffiti, and she knows what can fix that: another mural. Wilson then approached Diane Gross with the Cultural Development Organization (CDO), and asked if once again they would partner with Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons to create yet another mural.

The CDO jumped at the chance.

“As the only one remaining of the original non-profit, I felt it was my duty to give back,” said Gross, “and continue our mission to make Hot Springs really stand out with our murals.”

The CDO can be credited with aiding in the creation of all but one mural in Hot Springs and will make the final decision on the artist rendering for this mural.

“Our theme has been ‘Where history becomes public art’ and we will highlight the historic structures especially the VA Sanitarium building with its classic dome,” explained Gross. “This side of the street will have the POW/MIA balloon and perhaps two other more historic balloons. We will have more of our historic buildings almost as ghost buildings or hidden by a balloon or billowing smoke from the old train.”

“We wanted to draw attention to the fact that we are the Veterans Town with a veteran theme,” said Wilson. 

“The current artist rendering by Brad Appleby was created for ideas and talking points,” said Wilson, “it is not the final rendering as we still have time to move things around, and remove or add things.” 

If you missed the recent FUN-draiser at the Mueller Center Western Horizons will be holding another one May 7th at the Southern Hills Golf Course from 5-8 pm.

“We will have an updated picture of the mural at the golf course fundraiser,” said Wilson. 

“There will be tethered hot air balloon rides $20 per person, with local pilots donating their time, their balloon and their propane to support this event. The clubhouse will also be providing a meal for purchase with a portion of those proceeds to go toward the fundraiser.” 

To follow the progress of the mural project or see what Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons are up to next you can find them on Facebook. 

To donate to the cause First Interstate Bank has a CDO mural fund and is happy to accept donations.

For background on CDO and the history of the murals visit

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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