A balloon festival is coming back to Steamboat Springs. What will it look like?
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Hot air balloons will once again take flight this summer in a mass ascension over the Yampa Valley.
Despite not being held last year, the event is slated to return July 29-30 this summer.
Karen Beauvais is one of the chief organizers of this year’s event. She has worked with Scott Flower, a longtime local and Steamboat Springs advocate, to collaborate with a host of individuals, entities and sponsors to reignite the flame that has caused hot air balloons to lift off from Steamboat Springs for the last 43 years.
The event’s name has been changed to “The Yampa Valley Balloon Rodeo” to include a broader cross section of the region.
“We did this so everyone feels involved,” Beauvais said.
Though the event has always been held in Steamboat Springs, Beauvais has a vision of everyone “from ranchers, to those who are baling hay, to those who are visiting from out of town” feeling like they are included in the broad vision behind the event.
When the first balloon launch occurred 43 years ago, 20-25 balloons lifted off en masse over Steamboat Springs. The event was unique, to say the least, and one of the balloons featured a wedding where a couple exchanged vows. According to Beauvais, pilots fell in love with the area right away and wanted to return in subsequent years.
In 2017, the event shifted from being run by the Steamboat Chamber, and the pilots themselves took on planning and the logistics surrounding it. However, in 2022, the event came to a halt, as the Steamboat Pilot & Today had taken over responsibilities organizing the festival but could no longer shoulder the workload.
“It was a lot of work,” Beauvais said. “Businesses and individuals were disappointed about the cancellation and many wondered what had happened.”
The event had attracted from 10,000 to 15,000 revelers in the years that it was held.
Beauvais stepped up and decided to work with Ed MacArthur to address some of the issues that prompted the event’s halt.
“There is a lot of liability associated with people in such close proximity to a balloon launch,” she explained.
To resolve the liability issue, spectators will not be permitted, save pilots and sponsors, on the grounds from which the launch will take place this year. Beauvais encouraged spectators to use the geography and natural vistas surrounding Steamboat to gain a vantage point from which to watch the balloons rise into the sky.
The launches are scheduled for 6:45 a.m. on July 29 and July 30, weather permitting, with a pilots’ briefing at 6 a.m. both days. Once launched, the balloons will be at the mercy of the wind.
“That is one of the great things about the event,” Beauvais said. “They end up wherever the wind carries them.”
One year, a balloon landed on the James Brown Bridge in downtown Steamboat. Another year saw a crew drift all the way to Walden before they were able to touch down.
The backdrop of the landscape surrounding Steamboat Springs can be a photographer’s dream. Contributing to the beauty this year is the fact that five of the last hand-painted hot air balloons in the nation will be present.
“It is an event where people meet and form friendships that can last a lifetime, just as I have,” Beauvais concluded.
Sponsorships for the event are still available. The three sponsorship levels are $500, $750 and $5,000. Those interested in signing up to become a sponsor should contact Beauvais at email@example.com or by calling 970-846-8814. In addition to sponsors, the event is also seeking donations of lodging for the pilots and their crews.
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