The Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival committee recently got some “wonderful news,” committee member Randy Looper said.
Looper was talking about the Moffat County Commission’s decision Tuesday to allow the committee to host the second annual balloon festival in Loudy-Simpson Park, located south of Craig.
The commission approved, 3-0, to close the park for the festival and to waive the park fee for the committee, save for extra county personnel and other expenses.
“I was really not expecting them to be that open to closing the park for two and a half days,” Looper said Tuesday. “That was wonderful news.”
The main reason the balloon festival committee wanted to move the event from Wyman Museum, where it was hosted this year, to Loudy-Simpson was due to high winds, Looper said.
Both balloon launches during this year’s festival had to be moved from the museum to the Craig-Moffat County Airport, he said.
“Wyman’s was wonderful, but the balloonists, because of the winds at Wyman, didn’t feel that they could launch from there,” he said. “At Loudy, we have tested the winds and at least during August … they were calm, just like they are at the airport.”
Looper said the new venue means it is “almost guaranteed we won’t have to move it.”
Having the festival, which is scheduled from Aug. 19 to 21, at Loudy-Simpson Park is also part of the committee’s goal of expanding the festival to include more events and balloons.
Looper said the committee is looking to implement many of the suggestions made by hot air balloon pilots during this year’s festival.
“What we are trying to do is expand it so it is almost as good, if not better than Steamboat (Spring’s) balloon festival, where you are bringing in people from Wyoming, Utah (and) the Front Range ... to see a great festival,” he said.
Last year’s festival drew about 500 residents, “some of which were out of town (visitors), but most of which were local,” Looper said.
Expanding the festival’s other activities would hopefully draw a larger crowd and more balloonists next year, Looper said.
The key, Looper said, is giving residents a reason to stick around after the balloons have launched.
“They go up first thing in the morning and they’re up anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half, and then they’re done,” Looper said.
The committee is hoping to accomplish that with an expanded selection of craft vendors, children’s activities and other possible activities like a disc-golf or fishing tournament, Looper said.
By having more activities, Looper hopes the festival will become a three-day attraction.
Having a three-day event, Looper said, “brings in two nights in a motel, restaurants, spending time downtown” — all of which are potential economic benefits to the area.
“It’s a benefit for the whole community,” he said.