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New event to launch in August

1st hot air balloon festival to take place this summer in Craig

Balloons fill the sky during the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s 28th annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo in 2008. In August 2010, Moffat County will hold its first balloon festival at the Wyman Museum.

If you go

What: Moffat County Balloon Festival

When: Aug. 20 to 22, 2010

Where: Wyman Museum

Get involved: To volunteer or donate time or money to the project, contact Melody Villard at 824-9302.

Melody Villard still can remember back when she was 5 years old and wandering around the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.

She recalled getting lost and telling the announcer to try and page her aunt, who she claimed was the one who had gotten lost.

Her memories are punctuated by the bright colors and the overwhelming size of the massive balloons expanding with hot air before her eyes.

"Big is what I remember," Villard said. "They were huge. I bet when I see them now I'll think, 'Wow, they're not really that big at all.'"

To bring that same sense of awe and excitement to the children of Moffat County, Villard has helped organize the first Moffat County Balloon Festival, which will take place in August 2010 at the Wyman Museum.

A group of about nine people, including Moffat County Tourism Association board members and city councilman Ray Beck, have taken on the task of organizing the event, which will feature three days of family activities and striking displays of hot air balloons.

For optimal lift, balloons have to take off when air temperatures are relatively cool.

Therefore, balloons will start filling up about 6 a.m. Saturday Aug. 21 and Sunday Aug. 22.

Villard anticipates they will be on the ground by 11 a.m., depending on the weather.

Since balloons can't control exactly where they land, they'll travel within a three- to five-mile radius of the Wyman Museum, and ground crews will go and retrieve balloons and pilots from wherever they may end up.

Villard hopes that 12 to 15 balloon pilots from across the area will attend the festival and put on a brightly colored show for local residents.

"There hasn't been anything like that in the area," Villard said. "We wanted to bring in a new event that was community-oriented, so that people have an excuse to get out and have a fun day."

She said there will be several activities for children and families, along with food and craft vendors.

All of the festival will be accessible under one entrance fee, which Villard said will be low to offer Craig affordable fun.

But the part that Villard is looking forward to the most will begin when the sun goes down Saturday night.

"When the lights go off, the balloons go up," she said. "We'll have a glow program, and the balloons will be tethered so they're not actually flying, but they'll light up and it will look really amazing."

She said she hopes families come out early in the morning to see the first flight and stay throughout the day to enjoy the activities.

Villard also hopes that helicopter rides will make a return after their success at the 2009 Sheep Wagon Days.

"We just wanted to have something to get the people out and get the community together in one place without it costing anyone an arm and a leg," she said. "And watching the balloons launch is pretty cool. I think everyone will end up having a hand in making this event really successful."

Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or