Freedom Festival’s Balloon Fest is ‘full of hot air’

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    Hot air balloons. Rising six to eight stories high, early in the morning against the back drop of the mountains. Majestic, quiet, the only noise heard is the propane burning, inflating the balloons.

    Balloon fest was started 19 years ago to add one more colorful and exciting event to Provo’s freedom festival.

    At the time it was started festival organizers were trying to make Provo’s freedom festival one of the premiere events in the United States during the Fourth of July.

    “We had the stadium of Fire, we had a parade and we wanted to add one more large, keynote event, and hot air ballooning was a very popular event at the time,” said Wayne Ross balloon fest committee member.

    The three-day event begins every morning at 6:30 a.m. by inflating the balloons. Ross said the inflation and lift off is the best part for spectators.

    The balloon fest is restricted to the morning, from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., because the temperature gets to hot for the balloons in the afternoon.

    There will be 25 balloons competing in different events for prizes and crowd entertainment. The two largest competitions are the “hare and hound” competition and the jousting event.

    The “hare and the hound” competition begins with a balloon designated as the hare (rabbit). It takes off 10 minutes before the other balloons do and tries to get back to where it took off and lay targets.

    The “hound” balloons try to drop beanbags onto a target laid out by the “hare” to accumulate points.

    There is also a jousting event on the field that the balloons take off from. There will be 10-15 helium balloons that are about three feet in diameter and 200 feet in the air. Each pilot will have a three to four foot sharp stick and the pilots will maneuver around and attempt to pop the balloons to earn points. There will be daily winners and overall winners based on total points accumulated.

    Prizes are not big because in the past they were, the largest being a Mercedes Benz car. The balloon fest committee realized that when you have competitive events and big prizes, you attract competitive pilots.

    “Competitive pilots do not want fly passengers and do not want to do anything that will appease the audience,” Ross said. “It’s strictly the competition, so we dropped the prizes down, so our biggest prize is around $500.”

    The balloons come by invitation and range form corporate balloons and private balloons, from different states in the West like Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

    Balloons will be flying each morning from 6:30-8 a.m., July 3-5 at Fox Field, 1100 North Freedom Boulevard. Anyone interested may attend this event for free.

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