Rough weather can’t deflate Moffat County Balloon Festival |

Rough weather can’t deflate Moffat County Balloon Festival

Multiple hot air balloons are on display early Saturday morning as part of the the eighth annual Moffat County Balloon Festival. The yearly event included 25 balloonists from around the region.
Andy Bockelman |

Plans change, the wind shifts and some people might be blown off course, but there’s no suppressing one of Moffat County’s signature events.

The eighth annual Moffat County Balloon Festival has no problem drawing people to Loudy-Simpson Park each year for the brisk early morning occasion of seeing hot air balloons in all their glory, though the skies above were a little more difficult to manage.

Pilots were unable to take off Saturday after a test flight revealed harsh winds above 500 feet. They weren’t able to lift off Friday, either.

Nevertheless, even the sight of the bulbous beauties on the ground was a sight to behold for most spectators, and though balloonists weren’t able to soar as high as possible, a quick float a few hundred feet up was a thrill.

Nylon giants towered over the crowd Saturday morning in the form of circus artwork, floral patterns, Marvin the Martian, the Spirit of ‘76 and all the colors of the rainbow in all varieties of designs.

Friends Kaylynn Olmedo, of Rifle, and Genny Oliva, of Glenwood Springs, said being in the gondola of a balloon was something of a bucket list item for them.

“It wasn’t that high up, but it was enough for me,” Olmedo laughed. “We’ve always wanted to see balloons like this, and we figured there was a festival near us we’d come up.”

The pair rose well before dawn to make it north to Craig in time took to the air Colorado Springs’ David Yob.

On the other side of the field, Loveland’s Dave and Shari Vines were providing solo adventures in their Cloudhopper — titled Brickyard with a racing theme — as patrons were seated free of a basket to test the propane and take it for a quick spin.

The Vines have made it to Craig for four of the festivals.

“This is a really cool valley to fly in when the winds aren’t blowing too hard, the people are nice, and the river’s fun to play in,” Dave said.

Activities throughout the park provided entertainment, including the Friends of Moffat County Education Elevate Education 5K and One-Mile Fun Run, leading to the Colorado Cruisers Classic Car Show, Adventure Zone inflatables and Nakai Native American dancers, to name a few segments of entertainment.

However, performances by N Company Band and Jimmy Buffett tribute group Bluffett grew tricky when the afternoon began to see some precipitation. The delay in getting Bluffett onstage meant organizers had to make a call between the headlining performance and the evening balloon glow that provides visual flair as pilots let their flames loose to light up the silhouette of balloons against the nighttime sky.

In addition to the ground being wet where balloons would be, making the setup more difficult, organizer Randy Looper said it made more sense to press forward with the music the audience was already enjoying.

“The candling would have made a lot of noise, and I didn’t want to split the crowd, so we brought the lights over so they could play longer,” he said.

In spite of the adjustments, Looper said the event’s big day still worked well.

“It’s been great, I think it’s been one of our biggest days ever,” he said.