Balloons go Aloft during Autumn festival
September 13, 2016
The third time is a charm for the Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival.
The hot-air event returns to Park City on Sept. 16 to Sept. 18 for year three after a 20-year hiatus, and this one will feature some new additions, according to Event Organizer Meisha Ross.
"Like with almost everything, once you get to the third year, you have a better system in place," Ross told The Park Record. "We have trading cards with the balloons that are participating this year, and they will be passed out at the festival and have pilot information on the back as well.
"We'll also have helium balloons for the kids," she said.
The event kicks off on Friday, Sept. 16, at the Newpark Plaza, with a single balloon glow.
A DJ will spin tunes from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. and the balloon is expected to glow from 8 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., Ross said.
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The festival will then continue Saturday and Sunday with the main launches at the North 40 Fields.
"Saturday and Sunday morning launches are the big events," Ross said. "These are the ones to go to if you can only go to one or two events."
Public access to the field begins at 7:45 a.m. and the balloons are scheduled to launch any time after 8 a.m.
"It's a staggered launch," Ross explained. "They all don't launch at once, so everywhere you look, there are balloons at different phases of launching."
These launches are the heart of the festival.
"When we first did this, I didn't know a lot about balloons and went to different events around the state," Ross said. "I was surprised at how touching it was to see the balloons launch. You don't really understand that until you go."
That is emphasized by the way the festival is set up, Ross said.
"The cool thing about Autumn Aloft and most other balloon festivals is that you're not just a spectator on the sidelines," she said. "You can roam around and get close to the balloons. Sometimes you may be tapped on the shoulder by a pilot who will ask you to help with the crew. That's something that is very welcoming and engaging."
By roaming the grounds during the launch, spectators can see how big the balloons are.
"I think that is so cool, because when you're right there, you can see the magnitude of these things," Ross said.
This year's launch will feature 24 balloons, which is the same number as last year, and there will be a group of shaped balloons at the launch.
"Our presenting sponsor is Wells Fargo this year, so, they'll bring their stagecoach balloon," Ross said. " New this year will be an owl-shaped balloon, and there will also be other shaped balloons that will return this year that we had in 2014."
Those include Gizmo from "Gremlins" and a frog.
"All of these balloons will be out on Saturday, and some of them will be out on both days," Ross said.
In addition to the shaped balloons, traditional balloons will also be at the launch, including the Re/Max balloon.
"Re/Max, one of our other sponsors, will do tethered rides until close to noon," Ross said. "They go up and down until they basically run out of fuel."
One thing Ross wanted to stress is that pets, smoking and drones aren't allowed at the festival, because of the danger they pose to the pilots, riders and spectators.
"We want to make it fun and safe for everyone," she said.
Another thing Ross needed to address is balloon landings.
"We do have designated landing sites throughout the community, and while many will land back at the North 40 Fields, sometimes a balloon will land in the street," she said.
"So, if you see a balloon landing in your neighborhood, you need to know that the pilot has things under control.
"Hot air balloons don't necessarily have steering wheels, but these pilots have been doing this for years," Ross said. "They are some of the best in the world, and where they land is usually the best place they can land. So, we do ask residents to not worry if a balloon lands in their neighborhoods."
Still, seeing a balloon land is part of the fun.
"If you want to watch balloon landings, you should stick around the North 40 Fields, because many of the pilots like to return there," Ross said.
Saturday evening will feature a candlestick on Main Street between 4th and 5th Street from 8 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
"There will be a string of baskets set up and the pilots will flash their torches," Ross said.
As with any hot-air balloon event, it is dependent on good weather.
"We've had such beautiful weather over the past several months and it looks like that's expected to hold through the next few days," Ross said. "We're looking forward to great weather and big crowds. Park City, as we know, is a beautiful place and the pilots enjoy coming here."
Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival schedule
- Friday, Sept. 16
Newpark Glow, Newpark Town Center, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Saturday, Sept. 17
Main launch, North 40 Fields, 7:45 a.m.
Candlestick on Main Street, between 4th and 5th streets, 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 18
Main launch, North 40 Fields, 7:45 a.m.The Autumn Aloft Balloon Festival will be held in Park City from Friday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 18. All events are free. No pets, smoking or drones are allowed. For more information, visit http://www.autumnaloft.com.
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