Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival returns to Park City | ParkRecord.com

Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival returns to Park City

The North 40 Fields will billow with activity Saturday and Sunday morning when 24 hot air balloons take flight for the 2018 Autumn Aloft Hot Air Balloon Festival. The launches will start at 8 a.m., depending on the weather, and event organizer Meisha Ross recommends that attendees arrive between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m.

The event's intent is to celebrate the start of autumn in Park City, and the public is invited to mingle among the balloons and talk with their pilots as they prepare for the launches.

"They are happy to explain what they are doing, which gives people a better understanding of how a hot air balloon works," Ross said. "Some of the pilots may even ask bystanders for some help with the preparation."

If people want to be more than a bystander, they can volunteer to help during the festival, Ross said.

"It takes 24 volunteers each day of the event to make sure it goes well," she said. "Volunteers welcome guests and help with balloon support. And balloon support is where volunteers get to work hands-on with the pilots and learn the mechanics of the hot air balloon."

Heber-based entertainer Dave Gremler, known as DJ Hitman, will also add some tunes and commentary to the launches, Ross said. Not only does Gremler work the table, he knows a little about the balloons, too.

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"If you listen to his announcements, you will hear him talking in depth about what the pilots are doing to prepare for their launch," Ross said. "He kind of gives a behind-the-scenes commentary, so people can learn about the why and what about hot air balloons."

Hot chocolate and coffee will be offered for free, and Salt Lake City photography shop Pictureline will rent cameras at the launches, according to Ross.

"They have been a sponsor for the past few years, and decided to step up and will offer free camera check-outs," she said of Pictureline. "All people need to do is bring their SD cards."

Pictureline will also host camera workshops throughout the festival, Ross said.

After the launches, Remax, another sponsor, will provide tethered rides.

"People can get in a basket and take off for a few yards," Ross said. "The rides are offered on a first-come, first-served basis until they run out of fuel. Remax will provide a signup sheet."

The festival will also feature the "candlestick," an event featuring eight balloon baskets set up on Main Street Saturday night. Pilots will fire the engines from the exposed baskets, resulting in a fiery light show. "It will be like you're looking under the hood of a hot air balloon," Ross said.

While the festival is backed by the Historic Park City Alliance, it doesn't have any funding sources, Ross said. The festival relies on Summit County taxpayers and grants from the Park City Chamber Bureau.

Sponsorships, which guarantee a balloon ride, are available by visiting http://www.autumnaloft.com, she said.

"I don't think people realize the community support that is required to get the event 'off the ground' each year," she said. "The insurance alone is $10,000, and it's a challenge to do this each year because we don't have a nonprofit or business organization that puts it on, so we work tirelessly to generate sponsorships from the community."

Sponsors such as Park City Lodging work with Ross and Coates to find places where the pilots can stay, Ross said.

Sponsors, such as presenting sponsor Wells Fargo, and Julie Hopkins, 501 on Main, Royal Restrooms, St. Johns Property Management Company, ReMax and Phillips Development, have all come together to ensure Autumn Aloft has continued throughout the past four years.

Because it takes place near a residential area, attendees are asked to take alternative transport to the festival.

The Autumn Aloft Hot Air Balloon Festival will return to Park City on Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16. All events are free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.autumnaloft.com.