With pastel balloons following them like shadows, the trouble-shooters inevitably became targets.
“Can you help me?” people asked constantly. “Where am I supposed to go?”
For several hours, the balloon people ran around the Ag Trade Center to coordinate volunteers and help lost Bloomies find their way.
“You never know what’s going to come up,” said Jane McDonald, a trouble-shooter for 19 years. “Sometimes nothing happens. Other times people yell at you.”
Tens of thousands of Bloomsday participants showed up Friday to pick up their race tags and packets. Even more are expected today.
The 14 trouble-shooters are really jacks- or jills-of-all-trades - directing traffic, fixing schedules and calming angry Bloomies who can’t find their way.
For several hours Friday, McDonald was like a welcome mat, giving high-fives and hugging other veteran volunteers.
“The people are great. Bloomsday brings us all together,” said McDonald, part of a husband-and-wife volunteer team.
Thanks to the trouble-shooters and hundreds of other volunteers, packet pickup went smoothly Friday. Most people walked in, found the right line for their gender and age, picked up their numbers then wandered next door to the trade show.
About 800 registration forms were waiting at that booth in the “problem file.” Most lacked signatures, addresses or an X in the box to signify the proper gender.
Such problems usually took minutes to fix, although volunteers say they occasionally run into a Bloomie who refuses to reveal her or his age. Sometimes, they also encounter runners who won’t accept the fact that they aren’t fast enough to qualify for elite seeding.
“People get feisty at times when they don’t get the yellow” starting section, said Kellie Yates, a volunteer since 1981. “They just come in and want to win the race.”
Lines Friday were short but constant, especially at the late registration table.
“It was just a last-minute decision,” said Sheri Crosier of Spokane, one of thousands who had to pay the $25 fee for missing the deadline. “My whole family’s going, so I thought I’d go, too.”
Others like Bill Bennett simply forgot to register.
“I did sign up for Hoopfest,” he said. “But I guess I just had too much on my mind.”
Most didn’t mind the $25 late-entry fee, especially after picking up all the freebies next door.
After wandering around the Trade Show, Bloomies went home with Safeway bags filled with mini Power Bars, water bottles and other treats.
“Bloomsday happens only once a year and I get into it,” said Bill Hansen of Spokane.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Starting areas