Snowmass Balloon Festival returns this week with hot-air attractions
Town will combine traditional mingling with options for drive-in viewing
What: Snowmass Balloon Festival
When: Sept. 10-12 (Balloons launch daily from 7-9 a.m. A “Night Glow” takes place Friday from 7-9 p.m.)
Where: Snowmass Town Park
More info: gosnowmass.com
The balloons are back.
Festival season continues in Snowmass Village this weekend with a whole lot of hot air and brightly colored vessels at the Snowmass Balloon Festival, now entering its 46th year of operations. Early-morning balloon launches are scheduled to begin around 7 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; a “Night Glow” with a DJ will take place at 7 p.m.Friday night.
For Julie Hardman, Snowmass Village’s special events manager, the town’s tourism department is already “rolling into another busy weekend” in a jam-packed month of happenings that started with the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience; there’s almost always something going on in the village until October.
But unlike most other items on this month’s calendar, the Snowmass Balloon Festival is one of the few major town traditions that isn’t on the comeback from a one-year hiatus.
Last year’s festival was one of the few events that was able to operate amid pandemic restrictions, albeit with a couple of modifications like drive-in-style viewing and no mingling with balloon operators and crews.
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Now, it’s back to (mostly) normal, with 36 balloons slated to participate this year.
“It will be more similar to how it’s been in the past,” Hardman said. That means the return of roaming along the softball and soccer fields in Town Park — which Hardman said is the best place to get “up close and personal” with the vessels. There won’t be a bounce house this year, but there will be a food truck offering breakfast options.
There is an abundance of opportunities to get involved with the Snowmass Balloon Festival as more than just a spectator this year. Of the six dozen-plus volunteer slots available, just a smattering have been filled, said Julie Hardman, Snowmass Village’s special events manager.
“We desperately need volunteers,” Hardman said.
And for those interested in getting involved in the field of hot air ballooning, volunteering at the festival can be a great point of entry, according to longtime festival participant Tim Cole.
“The most important thing is of course just learning about it: finding out where the different events are held, coming out to meet the pilots,” Cole said. “Volunteer for being part of a team. … This way, people are more actively involved in it, and they get a thrill out of that, when they can actually do something — not only look at what’s going on but being part of what goes on.”
Volunteering requires some light lifting. Those younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult, and those who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask.
Register at bit.ly/3zRBaIk.
The Night Glow also is back in typical fashion with a DJ and the option to walk around the festival grounds, according to Hardman.
Balloon-watchers are still encouraged to view the sights from local trails by foot or bike and from their cars, but the chance to meet and greet balloon operators is back this year.
The drive-in setup was a hit last year, so that’s back among the offerings this year.
“People really liked it — it gives them a good vantage point from the road down onto the field, … and we could really use the parking,” Hardman said.
There will be a partial closure of Brush Creek Road to allow for parking between Horse Ranch and Meadow Drive; local traffic will still be permitted to access the neighborhoods along that road. Cars also can park near Town Park and the Rodeo lot to watch the balloon launches.
First responders can get even closer to the action this year. To honor the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the festival will offer free rides for active and retired military members, firefighters, police, EMTs and paramedics from 6:30-9 a.m. Saturday morning.
Space is limited and masks are required; interested riders should email Kiesha Techau (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 10 a.m. Wednesday to reserve a spot.
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