Moffat County Balloon Festival a sight to behold |

Moffat County Balloon Festival a sight to behold

The Balloon Glow event at the Moffat County Balloon Festival at Loudy-Simpson Park was a hit Saturday night.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

From sunrise to sunset, the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival provided entertainment for all.

The fifth annual weekend event attracted hundreds of spectators who braved the chill of the early morning Saturday at Loudy-Simpson Park to see the unforgettable image of massive spheres of nylon powered by flame as they floated into the air and out into nature.

Andrea Lay and James Ward were among those in the crowd, watching the 15 balloons take to the skies.

“It was great to see them going down by the river and getting so close to the water,” Ward said.

The day’s events continued firmly planted on the ground instead of the air with a full schedule that included pie-eating contests, wagon rides, fishing, a money pit and a treasure hunt by local organizations, in addition to many other things for families to enjoy. Food and crafts vendors were on hand, providing plenty to see, do, buy or eat throughout the day.

Craig resident Kerri Mueller purchased a homemade purse she just couldn’t pass up when walking by the booths.

“People put their heart and soul into making things like these,” she said.

Having only lived in Craig for two months, Mueller said she has already been impressed with the scene with events like Whittle the Wood Rendezvous and the Balloon Festival.

“It’s such a great small-town event,” she said about the festival.

Following a lead-in by Craig group SandRock Sound, headliners Eliminator KC, of Kansas City, took the stage later in the afternoon. Stylized after ZZ Top, the setlist was full of favorites from the blues rock and boogie rock group that counts among its hits “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” to name a few from the groundbreaking 1983 album that gave Eliminator its title when the tribute trio formed 15 years ago.

DW D’Wood, the band’s equivalent of guitarist Billy Gibbons, said Eliminator goes through painstaking efforts to put on a good show, recreating the same instruments like the drum kit used by Frank Beard and the spinning guitars employed in music videos, as well as the stage movements, facial hair and costuming that jump to mind when they hear the name ZZ Top.

“When people think of a tribute band, they think of somebody playing in their parents’ basement,” D’Wood said. “That’s not us.”

As the sun began to set, the rip-roaring of the concert soon shifted to a different kind of roar, that of the flames leaping from propane tanks as the balloonists set their crafts up once again for the evening balloon glow.

With their vehicles remaining tethered to the ground, the balloon pilots lit up the nighttime sky, allowing those watching to take a turn as well to inspire some “oohs” and “aahs.”

Pierre Kuhn’s face lit up as he and his young grandson Broddie Madsen pulled down on the throttle.

“It’s awesome, I love it,” Kuhn said about the balloon glow.

He and his family have attended the Balloon Festival regularly each year.

“This morning, our friends got to go up in one of them, so we got a lot of pictures,” he said.

Perhaps no one enjoys a balloon event like the ones in the gondola, at the controls and able to put on a show that can’t be provided with any other mode of transportation.

Pilot Jack Nisley, of Grand Junction, attends multiple festivals each year with his red, yellow, orange and brown balloon, Ramblin’ Rose.

“We came here last year, and I was impressed with the number of people that came out,” he said. “For a small town, this is a big event. It’s just been fun.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or

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