Balloon festival, Art in the Park: Welcome to Steamboat’s most colorful weekend of the year |

Balloon festival, Art in the Park: Welcome to Steamboat’s most colorful weekend of the year

Balloons are reflected in the waters of Bald Eagle Lake at the 37th annual Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Katie Berning

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Welcome to the most colorful, most whimsical, most Instagrammable weekend of the year. It’s both the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Art in the Park, offering events, activities and views from 13th Street to east of town, from the ground to the sky. 

Hot Air Balloon Festival 

If you go

Balloon Launches
6 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14
Where: Bald Eagle Lake (bike or take a free shuttle from the Meadows Parking Lot)
More info:

Night Glow
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 13
Where: Howelsen Hill

See below for interactive maps of the balloon festival sites

The 38th annual Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival — formerly the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo — is an iconic staple of summertime in Steamboat Springs. This is the first year that Steamboat Pilot & Today is managing the event and, with the new management, comes new elements of the festival.

The festival starts bright and early at 6 a.m. Saturday, July 13. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings at Bald Eagle Lake, more than two dozen hot air balloons will be inflated starting at 6:30 a.m. and launched, mirrored in the lake. They’ll rise above the Yampa Valley and sail away to wherever the wind decides, visible for miles and creating a landscape of ever-changing views.

The balloons are piloted by pilots from nine states, and two of the participating balloons are hand-painted — of which there are only 12 in the world. 

Among the balloon launches will also be breakfast, offered by Ski Town USA Morning Rotary on Saturday and Ski Town Lions Club on Sunday, both of which will support local causes with the proceeds. There will also be specialty drinks offered by Steamboat Coffee Co., and boutique merchants, nonprofits and other vendors will offer goods, food and drink.

Shuttles from the Meadows Parking Lot at Pine Grove Road and Bangtail Way will deliver attendees to the balloon launch. The shuttles, which begin running at 5:45 a.m., are free to ride. There is also a suggested parking donation of $10 per car to support the Steamboat Lions Club. There will be no public parking at Bald Eagle Lake, and parking along U.S. Highway 40 is strictly prohibited. Dogs and smoking are not permitted at any balloon event. 

Saturday evening’s piece of the balloon festival, the Night Glow, takes place from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Howelsen Hill. As the afternoon turns to sunset and dusk turns to night, the balloons will be inflated, their fires brightly illuminating each balloon’s tones. This year, the glow also features a circle of “candlesticks,” crackling with fire, orchestrated by balloon meister Doug Lenberg.

The glow will be accompanied by ’70s pop-and-rock covers from Mr. Majestyk’s 8-Track Revival, of Denver, as well as activities for kids and a dozen food, drink and merchandise vendors.

This is the first Night Glow to be held at Howelsen Hill. In previous years, the event was held at Gondola Square. At Howelsen, the winds are expected to be more favorable for balloon inflation.

The 45th annual Art in the Park will take place this weekend at the West Lincoln Park in Steamboat Springs.
Courtesy photo

Art in the Park

If you go

What: Art in the Park
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 14
Where: West Lincoln Park, 1305 Lincoln Ave.

Several miles northwest of the balloon launch site, in West Lincoln Park, the 45th annual Art in the Park offers another slew of colorful, family-friendly activities. Admission to the event is free, but every $5 donation to Steamboat Creates at the entrance gives that guest entry into a drawing for a four-foot replica of a Frederick Remington statue. The original statue has resided in the White House since Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency. 

The 160 artist vendors in the juried event offer small-batch, handmade goods in clay, fiber, 2D fine art, glass, jewelry, metal, mixed media, leather and wood, as well as vendors with food, food retail, kids activities and vendors representing nonprofit organizations. Strolling through the vendors’ booths, you’ll find live caricatures, wrapped paintings that may only be revealed after purchase, alpaca wool apparel, designs inspired by fractal algorithms, handmade puzzles, wire statues, sun catchers, handmade kaleidoscopes and hand-braided paracord dog leashes.

“It’s like a feast for art and homemade goods,” Steamboat Creates Executive Director Kim Keith said. 

Artists are coming to Steamboat Springs from all across the country, according to Keith.

“But we’re also seeing more local artists this year than last year,” Keith said. “We’re trying to really highlight some of our local makers and small businesses.”

Steamboat Springs area makers who will be showing at Art in the Park include painter Carol Jean, Coleman’s Haberdashery, Rising Sun Ranch Creations and Stone Art Studios/The Geode Guys.

“(Art in the Park) is great for the community, it’s great for our culture, and it reinforces what we’re doing, to see how many people are excited about it,” said Dusty Atkinson, who’s been part of his family’s Stone Art Studios/The Geode Guys booth at Art in the Park since 1994. “It’s a vital event for our arts community.”

This year’s Art in the Park event is especially interactive. There’s a selfie station, where guests can take a picture of themselves with a backdrop of various art pieces; there’s a boat float station, where kids can sail sailboats; and there’s a magnetic poetry board, for attendees to mix and match their own poetry. A Yampa Valley Sustainability Council-sponsored booth will facilitate guests up-cycling their own reusable bags from old T-shirts, banners and livestock feed bags to help prepare residents for Steamboat’s plastic bag ban. Guests can also visit a professional face painter or henna artist.

“We’re offering an opportunity to engage in the creative process and for people to interact and be part of the collective art creation,” Keith said.

“We want people to be able to create and engage with art themselves because everyone has creativity — whether or not they identify as creative,” Steamboat Creates development director Dagny McKinley said. 

In addition to the slew of visual art, the event offers a lineup of other forms of entertainment, including Steamboat’s IBi Brigade belly dancers and music duo Mike Martinez and Haley Berg.

The event’s theme is “The Promise of Magic,” inspired in part by Mark Ludy’s illustration that became the poster for Art in the Park. Ludy is a children’s book illustrator who works digitally and in watercolor. 

“(The poster and the theme) remind us of the magic moments we have here in Steamboat, the ‘wow’ moments,” McKinley said. 

On that note — somewhere in the festival, a 6-foot-tall unicorn statue is hiding.

“You have to find it,” McKinley said. 

Steamboat Creates expects 10,000 people to attend the event across two days. 

Art in the Park is the largest fundraiser every year for Steamboat Creates. The event typically raises $45,000, according to McKinley.

Art in the Park runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 14.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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