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Up, up and away
Click here to see photos from this balloon festival from past years
Ready for some breathtaking views? The 22nd Annual Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival will give residents a chance to catch some pretty unforgettable sights, both from below and above.
At least 30 balloons will participate in this year's festival Nov. 16-18. Presented by Caballeros de Yuma, it will feature balloons in a variety of colorful hues and shapes floating above the Yuma skies during mass ascensions Saturday and Sunday morning at sunrise from the West Wetlands Park.
Friday media flights will give residents a preview of the weekend festival with just enough balloons in the air “to pique curiosity,” Mark Mohamed, festival chairman, said.
About a dozen balloons will launch from the combined playgrounds of Gila Vista Junior High and McGraw Elementary.
Although only members of the media will fly this day, the public is invited to view the launches. Admission is free. Parking and entry will be from the Keegan Athletic Field parking lot, 2251 S. Kennedy Lane.
On Saturday and Sunday, all 30-plus balloons will take off from West Wetlands Park, located near 1st Street and 12th Avenue. Coffee, doughnuts, burritos and other breakfast items will be offered by the Sunrise Rotary Club when the gates open at 6 a.m.
On both days, the festivities will begin at sunrise with a flag ceremony that will include the national anthem. The first balloon will take up the U.S. flag. Then the balloons will launch at 7:15 a.m.
Beginning at 4 p.m., the Caballeros will host a carnival on the main field at the Ray Kroc Complex, 3500 S. Avenue A. “It's a family event where kids can come out and have good time,” Mohamed noted.
The carnival will feature food, vendors and family-friendly entertainment, including a miniature Ferris wheel. Eight schools will set up fundraising booths, selling baked and other goods. Festival-goers may also buy soda, water, coffee and hot chocolate.
Admission is $1 per person with a nonperishable food item for Crossroads Mission.
Also at 4 p.m., six schools will participate in a tissue balloon launch, with balloons made by the students. “It's kind of an unofficial competition to see whose goes the farthest,” Mohamed said.
“We'll have fire extinguishers on hand,” he joked.
Again this year, balloonists will offer tethered balloon rides to the public from 4 to 7 p.m. for $15.
“It gives people a chance to experience what it's like to ride a balloon,” Mohamed said.
The tethered flights, at about the height of 75 feet, are considered the best way to see the Barney's Convenience Stores Desert Balloon Glow.
For many, the Balloon Glow at Desert Sun Stadium, 1280 Desert Sun Drive, is the festival highlight. At 5:30 p.m., a selection of hot air balloons will be inflated and illuminated to music.
“The different colors, the shapes, that's what makes it so pretty. It's a really, really neat sight to see. It's almost like a putting a light inside each balloon. It looks like light bulbs going off,” Mohamed said, adding that Ferrell Gas will provide the balloonists with gas for the entire event while Inn Suites hosts the pilots.
People will be able to wander among the balloons during the Glow. “They can get in the middle of it all and talk to the pilots and crew,” he said.
The festivities will end with a Hansberger Refrigeration Fireworks display Saturday evening.
“We do it because we enjoy doing things for the community. It's a little unusual, it's a fun event,” Mohamed said.