The Snowmass Balloon Festival returns this week with hot air attractions

A hot air balloon pilot leans over his basket at the start of the 44th annual Snowmass Balloon Festival in Snowmass on Friday, September 6, 2019.
Kelsey Brunner / The Snowmass Sun

The balloons are back.

Festival season continues in Snowmass Village this weekend with plenty of hot air and brightly colored ships at the Snowmass Balloon Festival, now entering its 46th year of operation. 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. on Friday evening.

For Snowmass Village special events manager Julie Hardman, the town’s tourism department is already “rolling into another busy weekend” in an eventful month that began with the experience of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day; there is 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 city’s few great traditions not returning after a year-long hiatus.

Last year’s festival was one of the few events able to operate despite pandemic restrictions, but with a few modifications like drive-in style viewing and no mixing with balloon operators and crew.

Now it’s back (almost) to normal, with 36 balloons expected to participate this year.

“It will be more similar to what it was in the past,” Hardman said. That means the return of roaming along the Town Park softball and football fields – which Hardman says is the best place to get close to ships. There will be no bouncy house this year, but a food truck with breakfast options.

The Night Glow is also back in typical fashion with a DJ and the ability to walk around the festival grounds, according to Hardman.

Hot air balloon watchers are still encouraged to view the sites from local trails on foot or by bike and from their cars, but the chance to meet and greet hot air balloon operators is back this year.

The drive-in setup was a hit last year, so it’s back among the offerings this year.

“People really liked it – it gives them a good vantage point from the road to the pitch, … and we could really use the parking lot,” Hardman said.

There will be a partial closure of Brush Creek Road to allow parking between Horse Ranch and Meadow Drive; local traffic will still be permitted to access neighborhoods along this road. Cars can also 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 September 11, 2001 attacks, the festival will provide free rides to serving and retired military, firefighters, police, EMTs and paramedics from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

Space is limited and masks are mandatory; interested runners should email Kiesha Techau ([email protected]) before 10 a.m. Wednesday to reserve a spot.

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