Balloon festival breathes new life into fall event calendar | ParkRecord.com

Balloon festival breathes new life into fall event calendar

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At times this summer, Parkites might have wished for a respite from the busy parade of special events. But now that Miners Day has come and gone and many tourists have headed home, we are hankering to rekindle the festivities. This weekend's magical floating spectacle should fit the bill perfectly.

The Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival was resurrected a couple of years ago after a 20-year hiatus and local fans are thrilled to see the sky, once again, dotted with color.

The giant balloons are a reminder of a bygone era before air travel was taken for granted and when cross-country flights took days rather than hours.

Hundreds of visitors typically arrive at dawn to watch the balloon envelopes being unfurled and inflated. Then, the quiet morning is pierced by the sound propane burners roaring like a herd of dragons and the cheers of children pointing and laughing.

The event is a wonderful tribute to the ingenuity of those local leaders in the 1990s who hatched the idea at a time when summer tourism in Park City was still just getting off the ground. They invited professional balloonists from around the country who introduced local residents to a sport many had only seen on movie screens.

Those first festivals left a mark even after the last champagne toasts were over. Parkites had discovered a new passion and several pilots started their own local balloon companies. Since then, hot air balloon rides have become a regular tourist attraction and the colorful orbs can often be seen bobbing above local ridgelines and valleys.

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This weekend's Autumn Aloft promises to be a serene coda to a fun-filled summer, perhaps the last weekend before local merchants turn their attention to the coming ski season.

If you want to recapture the sense of wonder you may have felt as a child, set an early alarm for this Saturday or Sunday morning and bike, walk or take a bus over to North 40 Fields on Kearns Boulevard. Or just step out of the front door and look up toward the sky.

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