Mark and Dianne Prothro were featured for traveling across the globe to see the Winter Olympics in person in Sochi, Russia, in the summer publication of Wichita Falls Living recently. While that experience was certainly deserving of notice, it was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fulfilling lives the Wichita Falls, Texas residents lead.
The husband-wife team were also major sponsors of the Cattle Baron's Ball which was featured in another major article in the Wichita Falls Living publication. While they were not credited in that publication with their contributions to the success of the cancer-fighting Ball, they were sponsors and also supported the event by their attendance.
However significant those events are, Mark's avid interest in photography over the years led him to the adventure of hot air balloons. And his partner, his wife Dianne, also became heavily involved in this endeavor. The Prothro fleet now includes five balloons, three of which Dianne designed.
Already world travelers, Mark's and Dianne's sojourns only increased as a result of their enthusiasm for hot air ballooning. After obtaining his commercial pilot's license in 1993, Mark has "logged over 550 hours in balloon festivals in the United States, New Zealand, Canada, France, Mexico and Switzerland," according to his Eyes to the Sky website.
Mark has made about fifty flights annually while attending 8-10 festivals per year flying with family and friends. While they are residents of this North Texas city of 105,000, the Prothros divide their time between Wichita Falls and Park City, Utah, where the balloons are based.
An introduction to these unique balloons is only appropriate. Gizzmo is a friendly gargoyle who made his maiden flight in May of 2002. With large wings and a 69 foot tail, he was created out of 1944 yards of fabric.
Kachina is a 2003 Aerostar RX-8, 90,000 cubic foot balloon. Its design reminds one of the Southwest and features a star across its top.
Dianne is the creative force behind Hopper T. Frog which is based on her frog design. Also constructed by Aerostar International, Hopper has a large fourteen foot wide golden crown and an even larger fifty-eight foot wide smile. This extraordinary frog was built with over 1700 yards of fabric and an incredible two (2) miles of thread!
Pumpkinhead, also known as Ms. Autumn, had been a favorite of children for several years. Her size is equivalent to 2.7 million pumpkin pies.
Readers are welcome to visit Mark's balloon web site at www.hoppertfrog.com.
As if hot air ballooning and supporting the U.S. team in the Winter Olympcs are not enough to keep them busy, Mark and Dianne are also heavily invested in supporting the arts. One of their great contributions to Wichita Falls has been the discovery of Time for Three, a band comprised of three world class musicians.
As sponsors of the Wichita Falls Symphony, Mark and Dianne were able to help bring Time For Three to the City That Faith Built twice. Gary Southard, Wichita Falls attorney, said the attendance for Time For Three was the best he's seen all season. As a season subscriber to the symphony he said he recalled them performing with the symphony on a prior occasion.
"They are just great. Everybody should hear them," Southard said in enthusiastic support of the group's performing with the Wichita Falls Symphony. "I have never seen the crowd so enthusiastic as when they are performing with the symphony."
The crowd was on its feet applauding on numerous occasions as the musicians who were trained in Philadephia brought the house down.When the audience demanded an encore the three musicians returned with their unique version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."
The Prothros recognition of talent is uncanny. It was in the 1980s when they started going to Park City, Utah that they met future Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety at age six. Mark and Dianne met up with a real estate developer named Bill Ligety, who is the father of the gold medal skiier.
It was actually Mark's real estate business in Park City that brought the two families together. Among Mark's many activities is the real estate development of a ski resort called Deer Valley near Park City, Utah.
Ted Ligety won his first gold medal in the super combined ski event in Torino, Italyi n 2006. The Prothros loyally followed him to the Vancouver games where Ted suffered the disappointment of failing to medal.
Mark said that since then Ted has become the top Giant slalom skier int he world. Ligety now has compiled four world championsips, 21 World cup wins and four United States national titles.
As expected Ligety prevailed in the event he now claims as his own by winning the gold medal in the giant slalom. His picture adorned a cereal box the next day which will spread his fame in the United States.
Loyalty is a strong trait of the Prothros as they also supported another friend who won a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics. Mark and Dianne employed J.D. Christenson as a painting contractor for all their projects in Park City, Utah. So it was only fitting that the Prothros were there when his son Joss Christenson won the gold medal in a new Olympic event called the ski slopestyle.
Sadly, J.D. Christensen died last summer before his son was chosen for the Olympics. Fortunately, Mark and Dianne were there as guests of the Ligetys and the United States Olympic Committee to offer Joss moral support when he stepped on the world stage.
As if Mark and Dianne didn't have enough to do they continued their whirlwind pace by accepting an invitation to accompany the Ligetys to the NBC Today Show and also to the front row to watch Ted receive his gold medal.
Many Wichitans saw the Prothros on national television the day they went with the Ligetys to the Today Show.
They later were invited to Washington D.C. and the White House to participate in the ceremony for Ted Ligety, Joss Christensen and the other Olympic athletes.
While Mark and Dianne Prothro lead exciting lives, it is perhaps more significant that they are so kind to help others achieve their goals and also enrich their community with their resources and their time.
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