Two balloons fly over a lake north of Loudy-Simpson Park on Saturday morning. The 2013 Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival began with 15 balloons launching from Loudy-Simpson. It continues throughout the day and will feature another launch Sunday morning.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Two balloons fly over a lake north of Loudy-Simpson Park on Saturday morning. The 2013 Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival began with 15 balloons launching from Loudy-Simpson. It continues throughout the day and will feature another launch Sunday morning.

Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival a big hit in Craig

— Loudy-Simpson Park was host to the fourth annual Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival this weekend when the bright colors on the balloons prevailed over iffy weather in the middle of the day.

The festival quickly has become a staple in Craig, bringing vendors, entertainment and the giant, hovering balloons to Loudy-Simpson in front of large crowds. It began with a balloon launch Saturday morning as 15 balloonists took to the Craig skies with locals joining them in their baskets.

The ride was an unforgettable one for Nathaniel Mack, 13, who has enjoyed the festival and even helped set up balloons in years past, but he never had gotten into the basket before.

“It was awesome,” Nathaniel said. “Taking off was the coolest part, I think. Just having that first-time experience of getting up off the ground was great.”

The balloon launch went off without a hitch. Then in the late morning, it got windier, and into the afternoon, dark clouds came. The conditions would have canceled the launch and put a damper on the evening activities, but the clouds passed by the park, and the skies opened up for a concert from Bennie and the Jets and the candlestick glow by the balloonists as the sun went down.

“It worked out perfectly,” said Randy Looper, a member of the festival committee. “We had that weather in the middle of the day, but we really couldn’t have it for the concert or the glow (Saturday night), and it was gone in time. I think the concert was great, and everyone’s been having a great time, and they’re staying late; that’s the most important part.”

The candlestick was the final act of the Balloon Festival on Saturday. As opposed to the balloon glows seen in years past where the balloonists use flames to light up the inside of their balloons after dark, at this year’s festival, it was all about letting the massive flames do the talking.

“I love doing a candlestick,” said balloonist Frank Hunter. “If I’m going to come out and do one, I’m going to have fun with it. Let them feel the heat.”

The pilots turned their flames all the way up, lighting and heating up the area at Loudy-Simpson as the sun set. It’s that type of fun attitude from the pilots that made it a successful day in Looper’s mind.

“The pilots make this event,” he said. “They come out here to have fun, and that’s what makes this a wonderful event. It’s been a fantastic day.”

Craig makes it easy to be a good guest, Hunter said.

“Flying here is fantastic,” he said. “It’s a nice town. The people are fun and polite. I came out last year as well, and now I’ve pretty much flown all over. I love it.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com

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