Moffat County Balloon Festival support continues to rise | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County Balloon Festival support continues to rise

The Moffat County Balloon Festival officially kicked off on Friday morning at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig.

Add a little bit of flame and a hot air balloon lying flat on the ground will soon become an impressive behemoth ready for aerial feats. Light a fire under a community, and they can make a fledgling event grow into something much bigger.

If you go…

Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival

Saturday and Sunday

Loudy-Simpson Park

— The fifth annual event will showcase 15 pilots and their balloons launching at 6:30 a.m. each day. Saturday will feature a full schedule of activities for all ages, including, among other things, a pancake breakfast benefiting Bear River Young Life, wood carvers, story-telling, pie-eating contests, wagon rides, fishing, a money put a treasure hunt, a beer garden and live music from Craig group SandRock Sound and ZZ Top cover band Eliminator, followed by the evening balloon glow. A suggested but voluntary admission fee is a non-perishable food item. For more information and the full schedule of events, call 970-826-4444 or visit mcballoonfestival.com.

In its fifth year, Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival looks to be increasing its presence as a part of Craig's calendar, with 15 balloonists, dozens of vendors and hours of activities for all ages, with the main admission being a requested donation of a non-perishable food item to fill a balloon basket at the entrance.

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Each year, organizers have worked to increase all that the festival offers, especially for families, said Melody Villard, director of Moffat County Tourism Association.

"We're growing every year in both activities and attendance," she said.

Greater advertising with media coverage stretching from Grand Junction and Wyoming outlets has been a part of this. Utilizing the location at Loudy-Simpson Park to its full potential is also helpful, with youth fishing at the area's pond sponsored by Colorado Parks & Wildlife and wagon rides, provided by the Anson family, covering the grounds

"It will give them a little bit more of an opportunity to spread out a little bit," she said, adding that rustic things like the wagons will also serve to remind people of the forthcoming Moffat County Fair.

Crowds can fill up early at a pancake breakfast with proceeds benefiting Bear River Young Life, though saving room for dessert would be wise for those wanting to test the might of their gullets with a pie-eating contest.

The Bernie Rose Story Hour is a new feature this year, intended to engage the younger attendees, as well as a money pit, a coloring contest and a treasure hunt put on by several local organizations including Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center, Connections 4 Kids and GOAL Academy. Families can stop by each individual booth as they work toward a common goal.

Kim Maneotis, Moffat County director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, plans to provide kids with information about healthy living in addition to offering what she calls a "water challenge."

"It's a little bit of fun, a little bit of education and just getting ourselves out there," she said.

The increased amount of activities makes the day more fun for everyone, Maneotis said.

"We wanted something for people so that they don't just come and look and leave," she said. "It gives them more hands-on opportunities and makes it more interactive."

With live music on the schedule from Craig's SandRock Sound and ZZ Top cover band Eliminator, the event is gradually catching up to Whittle the Wood Rendezvous in terms of popularity, which is also helped along by three of this year's competing carvers showing their skills as part of Balloon Festival.

Make no mistake, though — even with everything else happening, the focus of the day is on the balloons from the early morning launch to the dazzling balloon glow when the guests of honor put their propane tanks on display to make the nighttime memorable.

The outlook is good for the launches of the weekend, following a problematic Friday morning when balloonists had to refrain from taking flight due to poor weather conditions.

"It would not be safe," said pilot Ernie Hartt, who is traveling around the nation with hot air balloon owner Kent Barnes. "We're on the road all summer. This is the sixth balloon festival out of seven."

Although the hot air balloons didn't make it into the sky Friday, the owners and pilots inflated the grounded balloons for the dozens of spectators who woke up early to watch the launch.

"We really like Craig," Barnes said. "The people here are fantastic. Flying in Craig is really special."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

If you go…

Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival

Saturday and Sunday

Loudy-Simpson Park

— The fifth annual event will showcase 15 pilots and their balloons launching at 6:30 a.m. each day. Saturday will feature a full schedule of activities for all ages, including, among other things, a pancake breakfast benefiting Bear River Young Life, wood carvers, story-telling, pie-eating contests, wagon rides, fishing, a money put a treasure hunt, a beer garden and live music from Craig group SandRock Sound and ZZ Top cover band Eliminator, followed by the evening balloon glow. A suggested but voluntary admission fee is a non-perishable food item. For more information and the full schedule of events, call 970-826-4444 or visit mcballoonfestival.com.