For the third year and the admission price of a smile, the little town of Washington launched another Muppet the day after Thanksgiving in a high-altitude weather balloon capable of touching the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.
This year, the town chose “Animal” to pilot the ship containing photographs of the townsfolk, other Muppet friends, creator Jim Henson and handwritten messages of wishes, dreams and safe travels.
Washington embraced the Muppets ever since The Jim Henson Company team arrived with Kermit to film the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid Superbowl commercial, using the town’s rivers and mountains as the backdrop.
In 2011, Kermit the Frog took flight in his space capsule, a converted vegetable steamer. In 2012, Washington sent Miss Piggy on Mission 002 to find him. While neither Kermit’s nor Miss Piggy’s capsule has been discovered, the people of Washington have never lost hope and continue to await any news for their safe return.
On Friday, all met at Mission Control Headquarters, Henry DeCorte’s Washington Hotel draped with a Muppet banner, balloons and U.S. and Earth flags stretched across the porch, for final preparations to this year’s Mission 003 — “Animal In Space.”
Animal, dressed in a silver NASA space suit, boarded the new capsule at approximately 11:50 a.m. With signs posted on the bar that it was “Closed for Launch” and the “Star Wars” theme song blasting from a speaker mounted to the rear of car, Washington shut down, and a parade of vehicles headed to the launch pad high on the ridge.
With 100-plus locals and out-of-town spectators gathered around the chalk outline launch pad sketch of Animal and a massive inflated weather balloon, local resident and creator of the annual event Poison Bob said a few quiet words … and the countdown began. At approximately 12:45 p.m., fueled by cheers, claps, smiles, hugs and waves goodbye, Animal lifted off.
While many others may focus on chaotic holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving, for the little town of Washington, the annual tradition has created yet another opportunity for a gathering to give thanks to community, friendship, family and the simplicity in shared smiles.
As Animal slowly disappeared out of sight, Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” played from a loudspeaker.
If either Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy or Animal is found, contact Henry DeCorte at the Washington Hotel, 530-265-4364.