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Scott Spencer, beloved Spirit of Boise founder, dies at 65

A Boise legend who inspired thousands to turn their eyes to the skies passed away Friday morning after a battle with colon cancer.

BOISE, Idaho — A Boise legend who inspired thousands to turn their eyes to the skies passed away Friday morning after a battle with colon cancer.

Scott Spencer was 65.

Spencer founded the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic in 1991, launching it as part of the then-annual Boise River Festival. Although the River Fest is no more, the hot-air balloon extravaganza grew over the next 28 years into a massive five-day spectacle that sees the launch of dozens of balloons from Ann Morrison Park. 

A commemorative tribute will be held to honor Spencer on Saturday, April 4 at 1:30 p.m. at the Riverside Hotel in Boise. Plans are also in the works to create a permanent memorial to him in Ann Morrison Park, the longtime home of the Spirit of Boise.

RELATED: Spirit of Boise founder gets key to the city

Spencer was born and raised in Boise and was a graduate of Borah High School. He flew balloons for corporate sponsors including Disney and Kellogg's.

Over the years he collected many awards and honors for his accomplishments in the balloon community but always felt his biggest accomplishment was bringing the Spirit of Boise to his home. 

When piloting a balloon, Spencer delighted in the reaction of those on the ground looking up, greeting onlookers  with a friendly "good morning, is your day a little brighter?"

Credit: Joe Parris/KTVB
Scott Spencer gets a hug after being awarded the key to the city Oct. 4, 2019.

Balloons flying over the City of Trees became an iconic part of nearly every marketing piece used by businesses throughout the area.  It became a symbol of the end of summer and a time of joy, celebration and family fun.

Pilots from around the country and the world would converge on the area each year ahead of Labor Day weekend to bring smiles to the faces of young and old. The event was always free for everyone to enjoy and unique in the way everyone was able to interact with the balloon crews and all connected to the event.

RELATED: Man behind Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic diagnosed with cancer: 'It's just a cruddy deal'

Spencer was diagnosed with Stage Four colon cancer in 2019. In October, he was honored with a key to the City of Boise. At the ceremony, he reflected on his legacy and the legacy of the Spirit of Boise. 

"Everybody has a mission every year to help us put that on. It's an honor to see that machine we've created work," he said. "So thank you to everybody, and thank you to everybody who's ever looked up in the sky and said 'it's a balloon! No, it's Scott Spencer.'"

He leaves behind his wife Laurie, also a talented balloon pilot, and a loving family of children and grandchildren.

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