Come Fly Away

To the Bal­loon Fes­ti­val in Pahrump

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents - By Ar­lette Led­bet­ter, Pho­tos from the Town of Pahrump

TOP TIPS FOR AT­TEND­ING THE PAHRUMP BAL­LOON FES­TI­VAL Each win­ter, azure Mojave Desert skies fill with a beau­ti­ful spec­ta­cle: the an­nual Pahrump Bal­loon Fes­ti­val. Dur­ing the week­end of Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 23 through Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 25, 2018, more than 20 bal­loon teams will grace­fully float above the land­scape sus­pended in bas­kets be­neath colour­ful, buoy­ant en­velopes filled with heated air. The won­der­ful aerial ex­trav­a­ganza brings thou­sands of vis­i­tors to Pe­track Park for the fam­ily-friendly cel­e­bra­tion.

With three days of lighter-than-air events—in­clud­ing lift-offs at dawn and evening glow shows where bal­loon pilots syn­chro­nize the il­lu­mi­nat­ing blasts of their burn­ers to songs—we’ve as­sem­bled some handy tips for mak­ing the most of your fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ence.

AR­RIVE EARLY

Make that very early! To watch teams set up and in­flate their bal­loons, set your alarm clock and ar­rive at the park by 6:00 am. Pilots need very light winds to take to the air, and the win­dow around dawn is fre­quently the calmest time of day. As a bonus, you’ll be able to watch the launch­ing of an un­manned, he­lium-filled weather bal­loon; it tracks the di­rec­tion and speed of pre­vail­ing winds, and helps de­ter­mine if con­di­tions are safe for take-off. It also helps map out the route manned fes­ti­val bal­loons will take.

DRESS WARMLY

Sure, there are stately palm trees in Pahrump and plenty of sun­shine, but the desert can get down­right chilly in win­ter, even more so in early morn­ings. A warm hat and pair of win­ter gloves are a must. Fin­gered gloves are best if you want to vol­un­teer and hold the rope teth­ers that se­cure bal­loons to the ground pre-launch. Dress­ing in lay­ers is a good idea, so you can shed in­su­la­tion as the day heats up. Also, sun­glasses are key, as you’ll be look­ing up into the bril­liant sky most of the day.

BRING GEAR

If you’re here just to watch, take in the sur­round­ings from the com­fort of camp chairs. This way, you can re­lax as the bal­loons in­flate and as­cend into the skies around 6:30 am. Of course, a cam­era is a must, too. You can use your smart phone to share the spec­ta­cle on so­cial me­dia as it hap­pens, whether in photo or video. If you have a DSLR cam­era, a zoom lens comes in handy once the bal­loons rise high above, es­pe­cially for frame-wor­thy pho­tos to dis­play back home.

JOIN THE AC­TION

While many Pahrump Bal­loon Fes­ti­val guests are happy with sit­ting back and watch­ing the ma­jes­tic air­craft float through the at­mos­phere, many also like to play a more hands-on role as a vol­un­teer. When you sign up to par­tic­i­pate, you’ll fre­quently help pilots and their crews fill the en­velopes with heated air and set up the bas­kets and lines—all parts of go­ing aloft. No ex­pe­ri­ence is needed, though sign­ing a re­lease form is re­quired. You’ll need to fol­low pi­lot in­struc­tions such as where to stand and what to do (or the re­verse, where not to stand and what not to do). Some­times, though it’s not guar­an­teed, vol­un­teer­ing can re­sult in get­ting in­vited on flights — a true bonus.

The Pahrump Bal­loon Fes­ti­val is a full-fledged ex­pe­ri­ence, morn­ing through night. Be­yond dawn ad­ven­tures and evening glow-o-ra­mas, guests can pur­chase teth­ered rides—they’re a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to bal­loon­ing; you’re in the air, but not too far up. There’s also mu­sic, arts and crafts, food and drink, and a car­ni­val. Add in a rodeo, too! Ad­mis­sion to the fes­ti­val is free, with pre-sale tick­ets to the car­ni­val avail­able from the Pahrump Val­ley of Com­merce at 775-727-5800. Teth­ered ride tick­ets are a great value at $10 and are avail­able at the fes­ti­val. For hot air bal­loon su­per­fans, the $25 VIP Field Pass in­cludes an up-and-close view of Fri­day and Satur­day night’s il­lu­mi­nated get-to­geth­ers. It’s al­ways im­por­tant to re­mem­ber, how­ever, bal­loon­ing de­pends on good weather. Strong winds, rain, and even snow flur­ries can af­fect the fes­ti­val sched­ule.

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