“We fly in some of the most beautiful red rock country anywhere,” said Steve Simpson, co-organizer of the festival. “Sailing over Valley of the Gods where you have the color of the balloons against the deep red monoliths is stunning and eye-popping.”
More than 20 balloons piloted by hobbyists and enthusiasts from across the country will take flight each morning of the festival just after sunrise. The launches will begin around 7:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday from the Bluff Community Center. On Sunday, a caravan will depart from the Community Center and travel south to Valley of the Gods where the balloons will launch, flying over the majestic landscape and rock formations found there.
“We started out 21 years ago with one balloon and a balloonist who was willing to come and fly with us,” Simpson said. “We hoped he would spread the word, and he did—we’ve been able to keep the event going for 21 years.”
Saturday night will also feature a “Glow-in,” a fire and light display put on by the pilots using the burners to illuminate the hot air balloons while they remain tethered on the ground. During the Glow-in, visitors will have the opportunity to meet the pilots and view the balloons up close while they’re illuminated.
“Visitors should plan on coming out to Bluff and enjoying the whole day,” said Natalie Randall, director of San Juan County Economic Development & Visitor Services. “The balloon festival is a great excuse to explore Bluff and the beautiful region around it.”
In addition to the launches, Bluff Elementary School will be serving a “Navajo Taco Supper” on Friday at 5 p.m. Events are planned throughout the day on Saturday, starting with an art market at the Bluff Community Center from 12 to 5 p.m. featuring local vendors and artists and a chili and ice cream social from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
All balloon launches and times are dependent on weather conditions. High winds, storm fronts and other inclement weather can create an unsafe environment and cause delays and even cancellations. Organizers ask for attendees to be patient to conduct the event safely.
For more information on the event, follow the festival on Facebook. To learn about other activities and places to see while attending the festival, go to utahscanyoncountry.com.