Candlesticks burning in the night: Evening glow highlights Moffat County Balloon Festival
There are easier ways to roast marshmallows than blasting a propane-fueled flame 10 feet high. But, Barbi Hann would be the first to attest there are few ways that are nearly as thrilling.
Saturday evening’s candlesticking display closed the activities Saturday for the 10th annual Moffat County Balloon Festival as the field of balloon pilots turned up the heat to show their equipment’s full capabilities.
Following a day of activities in Loudy-Simpson Park — among them live music by Four to Play Band, Black Mountain Riot, Randy Burghardt and Kyle Allgood & The NoGoods — crowds were looking for a show against the nighttime sky to bookend the early morning launch.
Due to the potential for incoming rough weather, a balloon glow — complete with the full colorful envelope atop propane tanks — wasn’t happening.
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Still, balloonists were more than happy to provide the candlesticking exhibition.
For pilot Keith Evans, it was even better.
“We can’t stand up the balloons if there’s rain coming, but that gives us the opportunity to put the kids in our baskets and let them pull the burners and learn a little bit more,” he said. “If we had the envelopes, we wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s all about making memories, that’s what life’s all about.”
Evans is in his fourth year attending the festival from Santaquin, Utah, with the red and black balloon Smiley’s Dream.
“Moffat County does an awesome job with this. We love the landscape and the playing in the river and skimming the pond,” he said. “I love all the wildlife around here, too.”
Evans was one of many explaining the works to spectators of all ages.
Ashley Pulliam watched as her 3-year-old daughter, Lilianna, pulled the cord to let the flames light up the night, her face as bright as the red and orange above her head.
“She wants one now,” Ashley said of her child’s new fondness for the one-of-a-kind craft.
Ashley added that she loved sharing the sights of the morning launch with her little girl, though Lilianna couldn’t choose one single balloon as her favorite.
“She loved all the ones with rainbows,” Ashley laughed.
Star Harvey traveled from Grand Junction to cover the festival for TV station KREX, bringing her 7-year-old son, Bryce Lockett, with her. Star was in one of the balloon gondolas during the launch, despite her unease with heights.
“It was surreal. It literally felt like you’re in a movie with everybody else moving around you,” she said. “I got to conquer some fears.”
She added that her son preferred the balloons on the ground — bounce houses from Adventure Zone — as well as the festival food.
Bryce also wound up serving as a sous-chef for a round of s’mores during the evening display as he joined Barbi Hann in the basket while she torched marshmallows.
“Who wants ’em burnt?” Hann called out to the viewing crowd.
Working for AmeriGas, Jordan Anthony said he has a different kind of appreciation for the use of the propane donated to pilots for the event.
In addition to being on a first-name basis with everyone — which also enabled him to bring his daughter around to meet the various crews — his knowledge of the equipment also enhanced the experience.
“If you’re a spectator, you might watch and think, ‘oh, that’s cool,’ but the perk for me is I get to go play with it,” Anthony said.
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