Craig prepares for Moffat County Balloon Festival
Tethered rides available for $10 on Saturday
In some uplifting news, hot air balloons will come to Craig for the first time since 2019 for Moffat County’s Hot Air Balloon Festival.
This year’s festival will feature over 20 balloons from across the region, said Randy Looper, who is on the committee for the festival. Pilots from Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada and Wyoming will all come to Craig for the festival.
“(Hot air balloon pilots are) here to have fun,” Looper said. “Pilots come back for the crowd, they enjoy the people. The Yampa Valley is a great place to fly since it’s a really open area.”
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Craig residents have the chance to fly in the festival’s balloons — if they help pilots get the balloons off the ground. Starting as early as 5:45 a.m., crews meet to organize all the burners, cords and envelopes (the colorful part of the balloons) necessary to get the balloons into the sky.
“If you crew on Saturday and Sunday, you have a good chance of flying in one of the balloons,” Looper added.
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Early flight times mean easier rides for pilots. At sunrise and shortly before dusk, winds are their calmest, which makes flights safer for pilots and riders. Currently, Saturday’s forecast is sunny with little to no cloud coverage, and visitors of the festival can pay $10 for a tethered ride, where balloons lift off the ground, hover 20-30 feet above the ground for several minutes, but do not launch and fly away.
On Saturday, festival goers have a full itinerary of activities provided by the festival committee. After the balloons land, people can visit food or craft vendors, and several musical guests will perform in the evening. Eagles tribute band The Long Run will close out Saturday night from 7-8:30 p.m.
Looper said besides balloons, visitors can also win cash prizes from several competitions and contests throughout the weekend. Saturday’s cash prize bingo and cardboard boat regatta each have thousands of dollars in prizes to give away.
“It’s going to be a fun family weekend,” Looper said. “Whether you’re an adult, a kid or somebody in your twenties. A lot of money is going to be given away, so it’s going to be a good time.”
Normally, balloons carry enough fuel to remain in the air for one to two hours, but factors like outside air temperature, weight in the basket and weather conditions determine the duration of the flight. At other festivals, balloons are judged based on accuracy of landing rather than speed, but Looper said pilots at this weekend’s festival will not be competing against each other.
This year’s festival will be held at Loudy-Simpson Park, and there is no fee to view the festival. Crews and pilots will begin set-up on Friday at 5:45 a.m.
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