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Balloon fest a crowd pleaser
Click here to see more photos from the Balloon Festival
Click here to see photos of a reporter's first balloon flight
The Caballeros de Yuma couldn't have asked for better weather for the 22nd Annual Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival this past weekend.
“It went very well. We got really good crowds, we think in part because the weather was so good,” Mark Mohamed, festival chairman, said.
Twenty-six balloonists were able to fly all three mornings of the Nov. 16-18 festival. Some years the weather has been too windy or cold to fly, Mohamed noted.
On Friday morning, balloonists treated members of the media to flights from the combined playgrounds of Gila Vista Junior High and McGraw Elementary, near 24th Street and Arizona Avenue.
On Saturday and Sunday, 26 balloons took off from West Wetlands Park, near 1st Street and 12th Avenue.
The mass launch Saturday drew an estimated 1,500 people and another thousand showed up to view Sunday's ascension.
On both days, the festivities began at sunrise with a flag ceremony that include the national anthem. The first balloon took up the U.S. flag before the rest of the balloons followed suit.
Also on Saturday, several schools participated in a fundraising carnival on the main field at the Ray Kroc Complex, 3500 S. Avenue A. The carnival featured food, vendors and family-friendly entertainment.
The Caballeros collected 12,000 pounds of nonperishable food for the Crossroads Mission.
“We had four big bins full of food. The generosity of the community makes us really, really happy,” Mohamed said.
Community residents also had the chance to enjoy the view from 75 feet above the ground with tethered rides. However, for many festival-goers, the highlight was the balloon glow Saturday evening. Barney's Convenience Stores Desert Balloon Glow at Desert Sun Stadium attracted the biggest crowd. Some 5,700 people, about a thousand more than last year, came out to admire the hot-air balloons as they were inflated.
The festivities on Saturday ended with a bang — the Hansberger Refrigeration Fireworks display.
“The fireworks went off without a hitch. People seemed to really enjoy them,” Mohamed said.
Funds raised from the balloon festival will benefit youth organizations in Yuma County. Although the Caballeros did not have a final total Sunday night, Mohamed was pleased with the event.
“The weather cooperated and the community was really, really generous,” Mohamed said.