If you go...
What: Fourth annual Moffat County Balloon Festival
When: 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Loudy-Simpson Park
Balloons will launch at 6 a.m. both days, with a full day of activities Saturday, including crafts and food vendors, wood carving and ballooning demonstrations, a pie-eating contest, a kite-flying contest, a beer garden, a concert by Bennie and the Jets and the late-night balloon glow. All events are weather permitting. For the full schedule, visit www.mcballoonfestival.com.
Before it’s inflated, a hot air balloon may only look like a large piece of colorful nylon with a basket attached. However, get a little heat going, and before long, it’s a full-bodied aircraft ready to soar to the heavens.
Just as this material expands to make something glorious, so are the numbers of the fourth annual Moffat County Balloon Festival, with 15 balloonists set to come out and display their aviation skills Saturday and Sunday at Loudy-Simpson Park. Pilots will be coming from across the state, as well as from Utah, Wyoming and California.
Organizer Randy Looper said the turnout has grown exponentially each year since starting in summer 2010.
“The first year we had five balloons, the second year we were up to seven, and last year we had nine,” he said. “Our goal is to add some more every year and make sure the pilots really like it and talk to other balloonists, then we’ll just keep growing that way.”
The balloon launch starts bright and early at 6 a.m. Saturday as the pilots take to the sky to show the crowd the aerial splendor of hot air balloons. Pilots also will offer demonstrations during the day, but there will be multiple activities available on the ground, including a pancake breakfast, remote control cars and planes, a beer garden for the adults and more.
“It’s always a fun event for families,” Looper said “We’ll have over 30 arts and crafts vendors selling their wares all day; you can watch the carvers. Basically, you can come out, leave and then come back later, or if you want to stay all day, that’s great, too.”
A new feature Looper is excited about is a kite-flying contest in the afternoon.
“That depends on the wind, and it may be earlier, may be later,” he said. “We’ll have a vendor selling kites, but we’ll also have a category for homemade kites. Whoever gets their kite up longest wins.”
The prize — a balloon flight for two Sunday — also can be won during the pie-eating contest with desserts provided by Village Inn. The contest will offer one round for kids and another for adults.
Looper said he is most looking forward to the activities later in the day, including a performance by Elton John tribute band Bennie and the Jets followed by the balloon glow at dusk, in which pilots will keep their crafts afloat to create a beautiful brightness in the darkened sky.
“Last year, all the pilots glowed, so I’m hoping all 15 of them will glow, too,” he said.
The event will conclude Sunday morning with a second launch and prizes for the crowd’s favorite pilots and balloons.
Organizer Jeff Smith said he anticipates a sizable attendance, though the numbers will be different from last year when the Balloon Festival was paired with the Colorado State BBQ Championships.
“You can’t really compare this year to last year, but it did good for two years before that, and I think it’ll do well this year even though we don’t really know what to predict,” he said. “It should be interesting.”
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.