The Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival soared above Loudy Simpson Park in Craig early Saturday morning August 6, with the launch of 22 balloons.
The quiet morning gave way to pleasant sunny weather as the annual balloon festival continued throughout the day with a classic car show, rubber duck race, cardboard boat regatta , food and craft vendors, bingo, live music and more.
“We’re making a little dent in the area and (people) are going to know where Moffat County is,” festival organizer Tony St. John said, explaining he met all kinds of people at the festival. who came from so far away. like Denver, Grand Junction and many places in between.
With favorable weather, the festival closed with one of its signature events – a nighttime balloon glow – featuring around 10-12 balloon pilots set up in a field behind the main stage while a tribute band to Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty headlined the concert.
For festival volunteer Nylene Haun, naming her favorite hot air balloon festival offering is difficult, if not impossible.
“I just love it,” she said. “There are so many different things like (the cardboard boat regatta) and breakfast, working with the balloon pilots – just the camaraderie, being here and that’s something Craig is familiar with.”
At 76, Haun lives in Golden and comes to the festival every year. She is also good friends with locals Randy and Cindy Looper. As a result, Haun has been volunteering at the festival for seven or eight years, and she’s come to love the annual shindig for many, many reasons.
On Saturday, Haun was working on the Cardboard Boat Regatta, which has attracted 14 teams this year – the most for the event now in its third year – and nine of them sank.
For the regatta, teams were placed in seven head-to-head timed competitions where they had to sail around two buoys before heading back to shore. Since each boat could only get one race, the fastest time was declared the overall winner.
The crowds were probably the big winner, however, as most competitors swam the course after their cardboard creations became waterlogged and capsized, dragging pieces of their boats with them as they flapped and paddled. until the end.
“The fun thing is, yes, you want them to pass, but if they sink and sink dramatically, that’s a lot more fun,” Randy Looper said, adding that in addition to a record number of competitions, it also saw the biggest crowd ever for the regatta.
The boats themselves did not disappoint. There were Viking ships, an Egyptian pharaoh, a parrot on its back, a smoke-breathing dragon, and even two boats that borrowed themes from Pixar’s 2009 animated film “Up.” “even had a dog on the team.
“He’s the first dog we’ve ever seen,” Looper said.
The best-designed boat came from the Polish Pirates, consisting of Mrzena Brzezinska, her husband and their teenage daughter, originally from Poland.
The trio spent around three days building their boat. Brzezinska said they didn’t come to the regatta with a lot of craftsmanship, but made up for it with a lot of cardboard, glue and guts. Before their race, she wasn’t exactly optimistic about their chances.
“We’re going to sink,” Brzezinska said of her prediction.
Those low expectations might have paid off because in addition to winning the Best Design award, the Polish Pirates were one of only five boats that survived standing to the end.
The first place winner was the “Up Adventure” boat, which finished in 2 minutes and 30 seconds and took home $750 for its effort.
From Craig and Hayden, Adrienne Wix and Tegan Ebbert built the “Up Adventure” boat, which came together after Ebbert read about the contest in the newspaper and “felt competitive” that day.
On the back of their boat, the duo wrote “Adventure Is Out There”. But did they think their theme from the film would help them stay “up” on this adventure?
“Oh, no,” said Wix, who was dressed as the lovable 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen from the movie for the race.
“We were really going with the theme with the houseboat,” she added.
“We are quite confident in our boat. We think it will float for a while, but we’ve never done that before. We are beginners. We never even looked at it.
Luckily, they won.
For Haun, the silly nature of the regatta doesn’t mask some lessons in perseverance and camaraderie that come with competing. She spoke of the groups who lost paddles, had their boats crash on top of them and still managed to finish the race.
“It’s just trying – just trying,” Haun said. “You have an idea and you see if it works… It’s so much fun. The regatta teaches children to do things together, to try to encourage each other.
On Tuesday, St. John noted that high fuel costs likely drove some of the pilots away this year, but said their goal was to include as many as 50 or more balloons in the annual festival.