Telluride Balloon Fest: Celebrating 40 Years, 5/31- 6/2!

Telluride Balloon Fest: Celebrating 40 Years, 5/31- 6/2!

Weather permitting, at the annual, very colorful Telluride Balloon Festival, this year #40, hot air balloons launch from Town Park on the East End of town and sail down the valley, landing about a mile out of town. On Saturday and Sunday, balloons launch at sunrise; bystanders often get to help.

Saturday evening, Main Street/Colorado Avenue is closed between Aspen and Willow Streets from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. for the GLO. No parking is allowed during that time slot except for the balloon trucks/trailers. Although the event is always dependent on the weather – too much wind turns everything off – when the Glo does happen, generally 7:45 – 9:30 p.m., enjoy photo opportunities galore and fun for the whole family as balloons inflate and flash a rainbow of colors against the night sky and illuminating Telluride’s historic buildings. 

Image, courtesy Clint Viebrock library.

“If you hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky/For we can fly, we can fly” (Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away,” 1967)

At the 40th annual Telluride Balloon Fest, pilots and spectators gather around 6 a.m. and, weather permitting, take off over Town between 6:45 and 7:15 a.m. Coffee, muffins, and donuts from Baked in Telluride will be sold by high school teens in support of the Breast Cancer Awareness Club.

“This is a chance to get your sugar and caffeine highs, help the kids and watch balloons aloft all at the same time,” said faculty advisor Jen Morgan. New this year is the 40th Anniversary T-shirt, designed and being sold by Fishbone Graphics during inflation at Town Park and near Pine Street during the Main Street GLO.

“Balloon Festival is pretty much the most photographed of any major event in Telluride,” said event Chair Marilyn Branch. “More balloon photos have appeared in local and regional advertising, magazines as well, than from any other summer happening. However, none of those extraordinary visuals would ever have happened without the support of Commission for Community Arts and Special Events (CCASE), which gives Balloon Fest an annual grant. I am also grateful for the years of help we received form Telluride’s generous retail and restaurant community.”

“This event brings everyone out of their homes and into the street for beautiful photo ops….and a chance to ‘be a kid again,'” explained Balloonmeister Peter Procopio, who has flown in Telluride for many years. “I’ve seen some amazing images from the GLO and from flights we have had over Telluride, one of the most beautiful backdrops we pilots get to experience.”

As for example these images from Clint Viebrock’s photo library:




Procopio started flying in 1978.

“When I lived in New York, I raced sailboats, but there’s not a lot of water around Gallup, New Mexico. I had never seen a hot air balloon until one flew over my home one fine day. I chased it, met the owners and learned to fly. I guess the appeal is the wonderful feeling of drifting along with the breeze. We’ve all had dreams of flying or floating. Balloon pilots make those dreams come true. Like sailing, ballooning has everything to do with the wind and being out in nature, which I love. Ballooning is also very social: you meet people from all over the world and get to visit lots of wonderful places – like Telluride.”

For the 40th, participating pilots are coming to town from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California, as well as other addresses in Colorado. Balloons with exotic names such as Koshare Gallup, Basket Case, Itszee, Spirit Too!, Synchronicity, Finish Line, Mar’s Rover, Marauder’s Mark, Infinitude, and Cosmic Crisp are hoping for good flying weather this year. That said, Balloons are completely dependent on wind speed and direction for all navigation. Wind blowing too fast or in the wrong direction means the pilots may choose not fly. To fly in Telluride, winds at the park and in town must be under 10 mph and blowing from east to west (straight down valley) on the ground and in the air.

Up, up and away….



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