Forecasts predict this weekend’s 2019 Autumn Aloft will float on
Things shouldn’t get too heavy for this year’s edition of the Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival to float on alright, according to forecasts.
Last year, Park City’s annual celebration of fall had to be grounded due to inclement weather. But as of Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service predicted clear skies in Park City this weekend in time for the annual event, where 24 balloons are set to launch from the North 40 Fields near Treasure Mountain Junior High School at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The traditional Saturday candlestick event, where pilots showcase the power of their balloons’ engines on Main Street, is set for dusk that day.
Event organizers hope that the scene on the ground, where food vendors and a DJ — a Heber resident named Dave Gremler who will provide commentary as DJ Hitman based on his own experience flying balloons — is as colorful as the scene in the air, where everything from traditionally shaped balloons to a flying elephant piloted by a Parkite will rise above the Wasatch.
“It’s just a time to see and be there and experience (as a spectator),” said Meisha Ross, an event spokesperson. “You may get tapped on the shoulder by a pilot and asked to help with this or that because it’s really an interactive experience.”
The event’s flight path remains largely unchanged from last year, with the exception of the addition of four exposed hot air balloon engines to the candlestick event, where a line of baskets with burners on Main Street both light and heat up the chilly September night by shooting gouts of flame into the air. Main Street closes to vehicle traffic while the candlestick event happens.
Ross said increasing the number of engines on Main Street is intended to improve the experience of an anticipated 1,500 spectators by spreading out the action.
“You won’t have to be huddled up together,” she said. “It’ll just feel a little bit ‘more.’”
Balloon rides still aren’t for sale, but attendees who crave air time need not worry as springless trampolines will be present at the Saturday launch, alongside a new tethered hot air balloon ride sponsored by Remax to add some flavor to the picnic atmosphere on the field — but not an overpowering one.
“We don’t try to spice things up too much,” Ross said. “It’s kind of a great opportunity to enjoy something special, then go about your Saturday.”
Event organizers are also still accepting applications for volunteers to help make sure things go smoothly on the ground.
The eclectic group of balloons and their pilots come from all around the Mountain West region, including a few from Park City. Betsy Bauwens flies the elephant, while a crew from New Mexico will make sure event sponsor Wells Fargo’s flying stagecoach isn’t ambushed by aerial bandits.
Ross said that the identities of the other balloons are being kept secret — since any good show involves an element of surprise.
Weather conditions, however, won’t be one of them. Ross said that event organizers will post the status of the launches on social media beforehand so that people know what to expect before getting on the bus or carpooling there.
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