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Balloon wind spinners new DDA art project

The Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority will install colorful hot-air balloon wind spinners as this year’s rotating “Art on the Lights” project. About 100 vibrant spinners will be hung this week in the alleyway between the First National Bank & Trust and The Sandstone Studios building in downtown Iron Mountain. From left are First National Bank & Trust Chief Credit Officer Jean O’Dette, DDA summer staff member Aaliyah Milbrath, DDA Event Coordinator Kenzie Williamsen, Sandstone Terrace Manager Brandy Wentz, Eden Property Collection President and Sandstone Terrace Owner Beau Anderson, Dickinson Area Community Foundation Executive Director Tamara Juul, and First National Bank & Trust Wealth Advisor Cindy Gustafson and Senior Commercial Lender Dale Cook. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Too small for passengers but big on visual impact.

The Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority will install about 100 colorful hot air balloons wind twisters as part of its ongoing “Art on the Lights” project.

The new vibrant display will be hung this week amongst the bistro lights in the alleyway between the First National Bank & Trust and the Sandstone Studios building in downtown Iron Mountain.

The Iron Mountain Department of Public Works will begin to install the new whimsical display on Wednesday, weather permitting, said Kenzie Williamsen, DDA event coordinator.

Williamsen anticipates a strong reaction from community members and visitors to seeing the 5-foot-long wind spinners flying over the alleyway.

“Last year, we received countless comments on the umbrella art and are looking forward to all of the visitors who will be enjoying this new art display,” said Russ Kassin, president and CEO of First National Bank & Trust.

This year’s art was made possible through the support and collaboration of their partners, which include First National Bank & Trust, Sandstone Terrace and the Dickinson Area Community Foundation.

“The Sandstone Terrace is extremely excited to be a part of this co-sponsored art Installation along with First National Bank,” said Brandy Wentz, manager of The Sandstone Terrace, which is atop the Sandstone Studios/Carlos Cantina building and overlooks the alley. “It is a wonderful way to encourage all people in our community to visit and be a part of our downtown in a different way.”

Kassin added that First National is also delighted to co-host art with the bistro lights and is happy to contribute as a sponsor to bring this and future public art installations to the area.

The Iron Mountain DDA received a Pasahow Community Impact Grant from the Community Foundation as well.

“Their commitment to enhancing our downtown experience has been instrumental in bringing this project to life,” Williamsen said. “We are thrilled to introduce these stunning hot air balloons.”

This is the second year Iron Mountain has installed art with the bistro lights in the alleyway.

The first installation, coordinated by former Program Director Mindy Meyers, was an “umbrella project.”

“Public art plays a crucial role in creating a vibrant and inviting downtown by engaging the community in public spaces,” said Meyers, now executive director of the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance.

Although the umbrellas were beautiful, they didn’t do well in the wind, Williamsen said.

“We also wanted to try and bring something new each year,” she added.

She said the balloon idea comes about from a personal story. Three years ago, she purchased a shimmery spinning hot air balloon decoration at a swap meet/flea market she and her husband, Chris, attended in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

“This spring Chris found it and when he went to hang it outside, I jumped with joy and said, ‘I need to bring that to work,'” Williamsen said.

The hot air balloons are designed to withstand the weather and dance on windy days.

The art project is part of the DDA’s broader initiative to promote economic growth, attract visitors and foster community pride through unique and engaging public art displays.

“We aim to create an ever-evolving downtown landscape that showcases the beauty and creativity of our community,” Williamsen said.

The Sandstone Terrace hopes to continue this concept for years to come and inspire people with art, color and design.

“For us on the Terrace, it makes for excellent views and the picture opportunities are amazing,” Wentz said. “Thanks to the DDA and the FNB for making downtown more festive.”

Although the DDA doesn’t have any short-term plans for additional art displays — the height of the bistro lights factors into what can be installed — they do plan to add more lights in future and are looking at a community-based project for 2026.

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