Balloon Fest Events Attract Audiences with Crafts and More | Local

Shoppers browse the booths at the 2019 Old West Balloon Fest craft fair in downtown Mitchell. The event was organized by the Mitchell Chamber and included 60 vendors with a variety of products.

Gering Courier file photo

Mitchell will be the place to be on Saturday August 13th as the final mass ascent for the Old West Balloon Fest and US National Balloon Championships takes place, followed by a craft fair, cornhole tournament and of weiner dog racing.

Carol Bernard, craft show organizer and Old West Balloon Fest committee member, encourages the public to come out and support the events all day Saturday.

Following Saturday’s massive Old West Balloon Fest ascent from Mitchell Airfield and the final flight for the US National Balloon Championships just after sunrise, the public can enjoy a craft fair on Mitchell’s Center Street in 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Around 75 vendors will have various goodies on display during the craft fair. Bernard said last year’s fair had about 40 vendors, so attendance nearly doubled.

“I think people just enjoy the Old West Balloon Fest and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “People are very crafty and I just think the Old West Balloon Fest got a lot of interest from people.”

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The second annual cornhole tournament will begin at 10 a.m. and the weiner dog races will begin at 10 a.m.

With Scotts Bluff County listed by the CDC at a high risk level for the spread of COVID-19, Panhandle Public Health is asking all vendors to wear masks and ensure their customers maintain a six-foot distance when of their purchases.

Fred Marquez will provide live entertainment during the craft fair as well as commentary during the weiner dog races and cornhole tournament.

The dogs will show their speed at 10 a.m. during races at Kiwanis Park, located at the end of Center Street in Mitchell. The public can pre-register online, but Bernard recommends coming in person and registering at 9:30 a.m.

There is a $5 entry fee per dog. The dogs are divided into four divisions: Little Sizzler, for puppies up to 1 year old; Oscar Meyer, 1 to 5 five; Bratwurst, 5 to 10 years old; Brats aged 10 and over. Six dogs will race in each heat with preliminary and final rounds to narrow the field.

“The dog just has to be a purebred dachshund, but not necessarily pedigree,” she said. “Last year we had 14-15 dogs and I hope to have more this year. We had a lot of interest.

We remind owners and handlers that only dachshunds are permitted in the area and must be kept on a leash when not running.

“When you start, the owner or someone holds the dog and we say ready, ready, go,” she said. “They have to drop the dog off. They can’t throw them away.

Drivers are not allowed to cross the start and finish lines during the event.

“It really brings a lot of people to Mitchell,” Bernard said. “Enjoy the craft fair before and after.”

K9 Kennels, Crispy Biscuit and The Happy Dackle sponsor prizes for dogs.

Bags will fly at 10 a.m. as the cornhole tournament kicks off on Center Street outside the Redz Bar & Grill. Participants will be able to warm up from 9 a.m. Bags will be provided.

Coordinator Mike Roberts said the tournament is limited to 30 teams.

“It’s first come, first served and we’re limiting it to 30 teams so we’re not here all day,” Roberts said. “It’s a double elimination, race to 21.”

There is an entry fee of $50 per team of two or $25 for an individual. Teams can register by calling Redz at 308-424-1211 or online at Where Look for the Mitchell Old West Balloon Fest on the website to register.

Roberts said the goal was to finish the tournament in five hours.

“If you’ve played horseshoes or bowls, this is it,” he said. “It’s a fun tournament to have a good time.”

Redz will open at 7 a.m. and offer a full breakfast menu.

There will be $1,000 of extra cash on top of people entering.

The public can park near the cinema, behind the town hall, in the parking lot of the old grocery store or along the side streets.

Funds raised from all three events are used to support events at future Old West Balloon Fests.

“After the balloons launch, I want everyone to come downtown and take advantage of the vendors,” Bernard said. “There will be food and music and lots of relaxation. It’s just a pleasant morning.

Saturday ends with a Night Glow in the meadows of the Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering from 6-9.30pm. The glow will take place at sunset, weather permitting. An event pass is required for Mass Ascension and Night Burst events.

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