Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival readies a relaunch after COVID-19 grounded last year’s event
Free events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday
The Autumn Aloft Hot Air Balloon Festival is ready to take off this year after COVID-19 concerns grounded things last year.
This year’s event, which is free and open to the public, will run Saturday and Sunday, said organizer Meisha Ross.
“We didn’t have it last year, so we’re looking forward to getting it off the ground this year,” Ross said, referencing the cancellation of last year’s event due to the pandemic. “We have so many special events in Park City, but Autumn Aloft is one that really touches the heart of our community.”
Ross loves hearing stories from longtime Park City residents who attended the original Autumn Aloft festival in the 1990s.
“We brought this event back to Park City in 2014, and it’s been wonderful hearing from people about what it was like going to the festival when they were kids,” she said. “Then they tell me how great it is to be able to experience it again with their own kids.”
The festival will kick off with a public launch at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the North 40 Fields, just behind Treasure Mountain Junior High School, Ross said. (See accompanying schedule).
“Another launch will be held on Sunday at the same time and location, and the launches are when the pilots inflate their balloons and take off,” she said. “People can really get a chance to see what it takes for pilots to get their balloons into the air.”
While parking is available at the Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School lots, spaces fill up quickly, Ross said.
“We also don’t want people parking in the surrounding neighborhoods, so we encourage attendees to use public transportation, bike or walk to the launches,” she said.
In addition to the launches, Autumn Aloft will present a “candlestick” event Saturday night on Main Street, between 4th and 5th streets, according to Ross.
“The candlestick is when pilots just bring out their baskets and burners, without the balloon envelopes,” she said. “Once it gets nice and dark, we’ll have a DJ spin some tunes to heat up the night, and the pilots will set off their burners so flames will shoot off in time with the music.”
The candlestick is planned to last for about 30 minutes, and there is an interactive component to it, Ross said.
“This is the event where we allow attendees to stand in line and pull the burners after the pilots are done,” she said. “This is a way for people to kind of get a peek of what the pilots do under their balloons, and it’s neat to see how hot air balloons function.”
Autumn Aloft, like other hot air balloon events, are subject to weather conditions, including wind speeds, and a launch may be delayed or canceled to ensure the safety of attendees and pilots, according to a festival press release.
In keeping the safety of attendees and pilots in mind, this year’s festival won’t feature as many pilots as in years past, Ross explained.
“We usually have 24 balloons for the launches and 12 for the candlestick, but this year we invited 18 for the launches and eight for the candlestick,” she said. “We thought if we could make our footprint a little smaller it may help with keeping people a little safer from COVID-19.”
Autumn Aloft organizers will continue to monitor the health situation, and update safety protocols on the festival’s website, Ross said.
“Since all Autumn Aloft events are held outdoors, they create an environment where people can maintain social distance,” she said. “If attendees feel more comfortable wearing masks, we would recommend them to do so.”
While organizing the festival, scheduling the pilots and securing the North 40 Fields takes a lot of work, Ross’ payoff is watching the community enjoying the events.
“Parkites are familiar with seeing hot air balloons up in the sky, so it’s something else to see them on the ground at the North 40 Fields,” she said. “I love it when people realize how big and magnificent these balloons are when they see them up close.”
All events are free and open to the public.
Saturday, Sept. 18
8 a.m. — Main launch, North 40 Fields, 2530 Kearns Blvd.
8 p.m. — Candlestick on Main Street, with DJ Hitman
Sunday, Sept. 19
8 a.m. — Main launch, North 40 Fields at 2530 Kearns Blvd.
For information, visit autumnaloft.com
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