Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival returns for another liftoff
Event will be held this weekend
September 12, 2017
This weekend Park City's airspace will be filled with hot air balloons when the Autumn Aloft Festival returns to town at North 40 Fields, located behind the Park City School District offices at 2530 Kearns Blvd.
That's when 24 balloons will launch Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16 and 17, at approximately 8 a.m. The launches are free and open to the public. However no drones or pets will be allowed.
This year's event will also be a little different, said Event Organizer Meisha Ross.
"It's the 40th anniversary of the Utah Opera, and to celebrate we will present two singers and a keyboardist during Saturday's launch," she said.
The addition of the opera singers is in line with the original goal of the original Autumn Aloft Festival that started in the 1980s.
"The goal was to become the classiest balloon event around," Ross explained. "So when the Utah Opera approached us this year with this idea, it rang true to the roots of the festival, and seemed like a cool opportunity. We're excited to see how the performance will enhance the festival."
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There will be a total of 24 balloons that will launch this weekend.
"Twenty of the balloons will be flown by sport pilots, which means they fly balloons for fun," Ross said. "They come from mainly the Western region of the United States — Arizona, Colorado and five from Park City and another five from Salt Lake City."
The other balloons are piloted by what Ross calls the Autumn Aloft sponsorship pilots.
"Mark Prothro, a local pilot, will bring three of his shaped balloons," she said. "We're not sure which ones he'll bring, but he always chooses a fun one."
Anotherr shaped balloon is from Wells Fargo.
"They will bring their huge stagecoach that is amazing to see, and they will bring a traditional balloon," Ross said.
The last sponsor balloon is from a new development in Eden called Sanctuary.
"It will be interesting to see what kind of balloon they will bring," Ross said.
During both launches, ReMax, another sponsor, will offer free tethers — short lift-off rides — on a first-come, first-served basis.
"When the balloon launches, there are three anchor points that are connected to the ground with rope," Ross explained. "So people who the opportunity to take tethered rides will get into a basket and go up and stay up for a minute and then come back down."
Saturday's festivities will include a candlestick event at 8 p.m. down the middle of Main Street.
Candlesticks show the public how the hot-air blowers work.
"We'll set up eight baskets, four above Miners Park, and four below, and the pilots will pull the burners," Ross said. "Since the burners won't be obstructed by balloon envelopes, people will see how high the flames can blow.
"After 20 to 30 minutes of the balloonists pulling the burners, the public can line up and get a chance to pull the burners as well."
One of the most frequently asked questions Ross hears is how can someone get a ride in a hot air balloon during the festival.
"The only way someone can purchase a ride is if they are event sponsors," she said.
For sponsor opportunities, visit http://www.autumnaloft.com.
"If people want a more in-depth and official opportunity, they can volunteer," Ross said. "They can sign up by visiting the website, and we'll set them up with a pilot, and they will get first hand experience how to prep, fill, launch, chase and land a balloon.
"Sometimes a pilot will offer a volunteer a ride on the spot."
People who don't want a ride but would like to help a pilot can do so during the launches.
"If anyone is inclined, they can ask a pilot if they need help," Ross said. "This is a neat opportunity to see how a balloon works."
Another way to get involved with the Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival is to participate in a workshop hosted by Pictureline.
"Nikon is celebrating its 100th anniversary and Paul Van Allen, Nikon's national training specialist, and his staff will give be at the festival on Saturday," Ross said.
Van Allen will host a pre-festival workshop on Thursday, Sept. 14, at Pictureline, 305 W. 700 South, in Salt Lake City.
"Pictureline will have complimentary cameras, lenses and flashes for participants to borrow for the festival," Ross said.
Pictureline will also host the Park City Photo Walk, from 7-9 p.m. during the candlestick on Saturday, Sept. 16, on Park City's historic Main Street, between 4th and 5th Streets.
"Autumn Aloft isn't just about the launches," Ross said. "It's about getting locals out into the community. It's also about getting visitors a chance to experience something cool in the morning, and give them the rest of the day to explore all that Park City has to offer."
As with many Park City-centric events, traffic can get congested, so Ross encourages festival-goers to find car-less ways to attend the events.
"We encourage people to ride public transportation or ride bikes," she said. "They can check out the bus schedules and pick their routes."
The Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival will run from Saturday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 17. Events are free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.autumnaloft.com.