STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — First, let me say that I have thoroughly enjoyed flying in the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival for many years, and it is now my honor to serve as balloon meister.
I am working closely with the Steamboat Pilot & Today to create a festival that is truly a community activity.
Having said that, here are a few ideas on how you as a resident, visitor or business can be involved in the festival to maximize your enjoyment of seeing these colorful giant globes floating around your community.
The first thing to remember is that these balloons are actually Federal Aviation Administration-registered aircraft complete with airworthiness certificates and are flown by FAA-licensed pilots most of whom carry a commercial pilot rating.
They are voluntarily giving up their weekend at home to join your community for this wonderful weekend. They are not being paid to be here. They were invited here to share your lovely valley and offer a fun weekend of activities. Local businesses also had the opportunity to sponsor a balloon for the weekend, and in return for their support, the business is able to have their employees serve as flight crew on the ground and in the air.
For those of you just visiting, you will be able to be involved in a number of different ways such as:
• Volunteering to be on a chase crew. This involves joining a flight crew and being available to help launch and retrieve the balloon, and sometimes, the pilot treats crew members to a flight.
• Hosting a balloon-viewing party at your home, condo, apartment or hotel. You will have the opportunity, as will all of the homeowners, to invite a balloon to land at your location by putting out a white sheet on the ground or hanging it from a balcony, roof, fencing or anywhere you think that the pilot might see it. I can say from experience that it is heartwarming when residents invite me to land in their cul-de-sac or backyard, even the street in front of their home and offer me coffee and a burrito.
And next year, local homeowners will have a very special opportunity to host a pilot and crew in your home during the festival. How cool would that be? You will get to hear stories of magnificent flights in different parts of the world and actually become a part of the flight crew should you choose to participate.
The Balloon Glow this year is going to be something spectacular to see as it moves downtown to Howelsen Hill. It will feature the Smokey Bear balloon, plus three other balloons inflated and three balloons doing candlestick glows on the ridge to light your way. During the glow, the pilots are very approachable so please bring yourself and your kiddos out to visit with the pilots and crews.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the festival and interact with all of us because that is why we come here. I look forward to seeing you at the balloon launches on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Bald Eagle Lake and at the Balloon Glow on Saturday night at Howelsen Hill.
Doug Lenberg, balloon meister
Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival