By DANA RIMMINGTON | Standard-Examiner
Ogden • After a four-year hiatus, the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival is back starting Friday, Aug. 15, and there is no shortage of balloonists who want to participate.
“Ogden Valley is a spectacular place to fly with the mountains, green valley, and the beautiful lake all seen from the air,” said Kent Barnes, the festival’s balloon safety officer. “There is something magical about being in an object that is six stories high, with bright, brilliant color, traveling with the wind, and the fact that it is a form of aviation that everyone can come and get up close to see.”
This year’s festival will have 15 balloons.
“Now with the revival (of the festival), we have a long list of pilots who want to come back, but we’re starting out with a reasonable size to revitalize by doing it in a very controlled, well-thought out manner,” Barnes said. “But we hope to go back to its previous stature.”
In years past, the festival had 30 or more balloons, but with the economic downturn in 2009, the festival wasn’t able to continue since getting hot air balloons into the air comes with a steep price tag, said Terry Murphy, festival director.
This spring, Nordic Valley stepped in and offered to host the event.
“It was really quite a surprising turn of events to come back this quickly, and to be in such a healthy state, which comes right back to our community stepping up and helping in many different ways to make it happen,” Murphy said.
Murphy said Ogden Valley is the area’s only hot air balloon festival, with Antelope Island’s Balloon Festival canceled due to inconsistent wind patterns, making it difficult to fly the balloons each year.
“Pilots love flying in our valley because the currents, which are a box-shape pattern, are just a delight for them to fly in,” Murphy said. “With the panoramic view, water, mountains and open fields, it’s a spectacular place to host the balloon festival.”
All flights are subject to weather, but balloonists plan to launch each day of the event at dawn from Snowcrest Junior High, between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., with the balloons in the air for about 45 to 90 minutes. Flights will also be attempted around 7:30 p.m. each night, with the popular Balloon Glow taking place at dusk Aug. 16.
Other activities will include the locals’ favorite, breakfast each morning from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. with all proceeds going back into supporting Ogden Rescue Mission. During the day and evening, vendors will staff booths with food, booths with art, jewelry, and clothes. Live music will play, and art projects and face painting will be available for kids.
Entrance to the festival is free, but fees will be charged for games and vendors’ goods. There will be a $10 fee for parking, per car, for a day. A bike valet will be offered free of charge for those attending the festival on a bicycle.
The festival originally began as a fundraiser to add improvements to Eden Park in 1996, but has since turned into a kind of mecca for hot air balloon enthusiasts.
Murphy hopes the festival will have a solid future.
“We know that we are on the right track for having the balloon festival again next year, and we are getting a lot of support and positive feedback,” she said.
“The size we have this year fits the valley, and the locals are excited to be a part of it again.”