From the publisher: Lessons learned from hosting 1st balloon event |

From the publisher: Lessons learned from hosting 1st balloon event

Logan Molen

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — I’ve tackled many daunting projects in my nearly 40 years in local media, but none prepared me for navigating the many challenges of a hot air balloon event. But having survived this first one, I can’t wait to do it again.

I might not have said that a few weeks before, as our staff tackled the many tasks associated with hosting such a large event. 

“Relax,” our ebullient balloon meister Doug Lenberg kept telling me in the weeks leading up to the event. “Everything will be fine.”

He was mostly right. We enjoyed larger-than-normal crowds at all three events, and our two-dozen pilots put on memorable shows at Bald Eagle Lake and Howelsen Hill. It felt good to see thousands of attendees smiling, laughing, oohing and aahing, particularly during the spectacular display of flying on Sunday, which many pilots described as “the best in years.”

On Saturday, I got a thrill talking with one of at least two couples who got engaged at Bald Eagle Lake during the morning balloon launches. And I got goosebumps when an associate described her balloon ride as “a spiritual experience.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Having said that, we have a long list of things to improve for next year. And, as you might expect, planning for next year’s event began the day after this year’s ended. No rest for the wicked, you might say. 

Here are a few of the bigger things we’ll be addressing:

• The 2020 event — scheduled for July 11 and 12 — will be called the Steamboat Pilot & Today Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Now that we’ve got a year under our belt, we feel good about what we accomplished and will put our brand, marketing muscle and full effort behind this iconic event. We’ll also restore “Rodeo” to the event title. We’ll still pursue a festival atmosphere in planning the event but want to recognize Steamboat’s deep ranching roots and singularity among balloon festivals elsewhere. The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo is a strong brand, and it’s my fault for trying to mess with something that’s worked well for 38 years. 

• Crowds were larger than expected, particularly on Saturday morning, which led to long shuttle lines to and from Bald Eagle Lake. We’ll correct that next year.

• We’ll have more food and merchandise vendors at all events. And you clearly liked most of our event merchandise — everything but the hats sold quickly — so we’ll be better prepared next year. If you did miss out, you can still order event merch at

• Six balloons were able to inflate at the Howelsen Hill Night Glow but, outside of several basket “candlesticks” on the rim of the bowl, they did not get to light before a quick windstorm barged in and disrupted the show. Winds have been a gremlin with the night glow in Steamboat, so we’ll continue to try to outsmart Mother Nature next year. But based on our happy vendors, many of you had a good time regardless. 

Those are just a few of the five or six dozen other things we want to address as we plan for 2020. Feel free to share your thoughts and advice with me at

Finally, many thanks to the many people and organizations who donated money, land, time or expertise to make the event possible. They include: our sponsors and vendors; lodging, fuel and media partners; volunteers; civic organizations, whose proceeds will be donated back into the community; and everyone who came out to watch the spectacle. 

In Our Shoes

Steamboat Pilot & Today’s eight-week series on sexual assault in Steamboat Springs and Routt Count will conclude Wednesday then transition into a series of five weekly “In Our Shoes” events designed to foster an open community conversation around this important topic. 

I’m proud of our “In Our Shoes” coverage, which includes in-depth reporting from our newsroom and powerful community contributions, and I encourage everyone to read our full coverage at

I also encourage you to join us from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27, in Bud Werner Memorial Library’s Library Hall for an “In Your Shoes” event featuring an art exhibit opening, spoken word performances, a specially choreographed dance by the IBI Brigade and a panel discussion with local experts on sexual assault. This is the first of five weekly “In Our Shoes” events at the library and Depot Art Center. 

Best of the Boat

We have just launched the nomination phase of our annual Best of the Boat competition highlighting the best of Steamboat and Routt County. We need you to visit to nominate your favorite business, individual or organization in 116 categories. The nomination period will run through Aug. 8. We’ll then sort through and clean up all the nominations, then open all categories up for final voting beginning Aug. 15. 

To reach Logan Molen, call 970-871-4224, email or follow him on Twitter @lmolen.

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