Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival returns to celebrate the city’s 40th anniversary

Hot air balloons have always been part of Michael Glen’s life. His first flight to the clouds was with his father when he was just 2 weeks old.

In 1996, Glen was involved in a single-car rollover accident and was left paralyzed from the waist down. But becoming a hot air balloon pilot, like his father, was his goal. He was denied certification by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2005 due to his disability, but continued to pursue his dream.

Finally in 2006, he obtained his license, making him the first paraplegic hot air balloon pilot in the world. His basket has a few modifications, mainly that it looks like a ski lift, Glen said.

He’s flown in more than 30 states and multiple cities around the world, and this weekend he’ll be one of many pilots to take passengers through the air at the seventh annual Cathedral City and Food Balloon Festival. Truck Fiesta.

“It’s one of the most peaceful times,” Glen said of floating in a hot air balloon. His favorite thing about taking people is seeing them “all turn into a 10-year-old kid” full of excitement.

Hot air balloons take off near the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage on Friday, November 19, 2021. The casino has its own balloon this year during the seventh annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta.

This year’s festival, celebrating Cathedral City’s 40th anniversary, takes flight through Sunday with nearly 30 featured hot air balloons, rides, food, music, a car show and more for the whole family. family. The event returns after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clear and early Friday morning, visitors from across the United States gathered at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage to watch the ball launch.

The new Cosmic Crisp Apple hot air balloon is preparing to take flight on Friday, November 19, 2021.

The new Cosmic Crisp Apple hot air balloon is preparing to take flight on Friday, November 19, 2021.

The balloons are first placed on tarpaulins, opened and attached to the basket. Then an industrial fan blows cold air to the bottom of the balloon. Once the balloon is half full of air, a burner is ignited, blowing hot air into it. The balloon later reaches its upright position and is ready to take passengers up and out.

As he watched the process unfold, John Carasella, of Virginia Beach, Va., said he was considering taking a ride but was a little “afraid to go to Oz.” But if Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” made it home safely, surely anyone can.

Hot air is blown into the Cosmic Crisp Apple balloon Friday morning at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.

Hot air is blown into the Cosmic Crisp Apple balloon Friday morning at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.

Hot air balloon master Steve Wilkinson has organized the festival for seven years, but has been in charge of events around the world through Fantasy Balloon Flights for 40 years. A number of new balloons will be featured this year, including an Agua Caliente Casino balloon, one with a “happy birthday” message on it to celebrate the anniversaries of Cathedral City and Fantasy Balloon Flights, and one named Cosmic Crisp Apple in the shape of a a tasty red apple.

A hot air balloon wishes a happy birthday to Cathedral City.  The city celebrates its 40th anniversary with the seventh annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta.

A hot air balloon wishes a happy birthday to Cathedral City. The city celebrates its 40th anniversary with the seventh annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta.

Depending on the size of the gondola, from 2 to 14 passengers can take a hot air balloon ride. The traditional rides are sold out for this weekend, but festival attendees can take a captive ride, which takes them up to 50 to 75 feet in the air. Tickets can be purchased the day of the event for $25, and children 5 and under are free.

Saturday will be full of festivities at the new Cathedral City Community Amphitheater, located at 68-526 Ave. Lalo Guerrero.

The food truck fiesta will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., featuring a beer and wine garden, car show, and music from local bands.

The city’s anniversary will also be highlighted on Saturday evening with a Balloon Glow. Hot air balloons will line up along Route 111 from the Cathedral City of Agua Caliente Casino to the city’s Festival Lawn and Community Amphitheater. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com/e/cathedral-citys-40th-anniversary-celebration-food-truck-fiesta-tickets-178914176117.

Two hot air balloons float above the Coachella Valley on Friday, November 19, 2021.

Two hot air balloons float above the Coachella Valley on Friday, November 19, 2021.

On Sunday, the festival will host a Special Shape Breakfast and Balloons event from 7-9 a.m. at Big League Dreams Cathedral City, 33-700 Date Palm Drive.

While attendees eat a pancake breakfast, they can watch 10 uniquely shaped hot air balloons inflate. Balloons that will be featured include the Cosmic Crisp Apple, Ms. Autumn the Jack-O-Lantern, Buckeye the Beaver, The Keystone Cop, and Sushi the Goldfish. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com/e/special-shape-sunday-breakfast-and-balloons-tickets-172905062697.

Balloon launches will also take place each morning at a different location, which can be found at hotairballoonfest.com/.

Hot air balloons take off near the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage on Friday, November 19, 2021.

Hot air balloons take off near the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage on Friday, November 19, 2021.

Seventh Annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta

When: Friday to Sunday

Program:

  • Friday: Downtown Cathedral City Food Truck Fiesta, art exhibit and live music from 3-8:30 p.m.; Performance by Hollywood U2 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

  • Saturday: Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa Launch of hot air balloons in the morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.; Food Truck Fiesta and Beer and Wine Gardens from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (free admission for Cathedral City residents); Banana Balloon Candy Drop at 11 a.m.; Cathedral City’s 40th anniversary celebrations starting at 5 p.m.; Balloon glow from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Performance by Giselle Woo & The Night Owls from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Sunday: Launch of the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage balloon from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.; Special shaped breakfast and balloons from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.hotairballoonfest.com/.

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival Returns to Celebrate the City’s 40th Anniversary.