Long shadows of sunrise stretch along the grass on the launch site at Memorial Park, where the crowd camouflages the dozens of trucks and trailers setting up balloons for the morning launch. A short time later, the first wave of balloons begins to inflate en masse creating a virtual mountain range of hot air and color. As the first balloon fully inflates and launches, the crowd lets out a loud cheer, and cameras from DSLRs to cell phones shoot away. The Colorado Balloon Classic is the largest air show in Colorado, and has drawn spectators from all over with cameras in hand, for the spectacle of brightly-colored behemoths drifting skyward, and glowing bright as day in the evening.
The Colorado Balloon Classic is now in its 34th year, and has become the largest air show in Colorado. This year, the free event has also earned a spot on the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events in North America. Coverage of the event grows as KWHD TV-53 Denver has begun coverage. However, the most prolific group to cover and covet the event are the spectators with cameras in hand, photoblogging the event live on Facebook , and on a multitude of photo sharing sites including Flickr, Webshots, and Picasa.
What stands out about the event is its casual and transparent atmosphere. It’s an event where anyone can get up close with the balloons and their crews on the launch site as preparations are made for flight. Pilot and crew briefings are open to the public. The organizers and the balloon pilots participating in the event are a tight-knit community, having dedicated this year’s event to one of their own, Art Walsh, who has participated in the event for 26 years.
The event is also interactive. With balloon flights from Adventure Out West, contests to choose next year’s event logo and the ever-popular photo contest, the Colorado Balloon Classic is an event where everyone can participate.
In addition to the balloons, their crews, and event organizers, other participants and organizations take part to create a reflection of the Colorado Springs community. U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue and Space Top 3 represent the military community in the area. The numerous vendors lining the perimeter of the launch field such as CiCi’s and AMAA represent the local businesses and organizations in the area. Nonprofit organizations such as Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful and Care and Share are represented as well.
It’s a big debate on when the best time to go during the Labor Day event. There are morning and evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday, with only a morning session on Labor Day.
What’s great about going in the morning is the flight of the balloons, and the ability to stay mobile to get close to your favorites like the Energizer Bunny, Hamlet-the-pig, and Marv’n the Martian.
The evening is a pure light show. The biggest night lights you’ll ever see will flicker, alternate and glow bright as day, as numerous countdowns (and count-ups) in different languages cue the pilots for the next brilliant display.
Whenever you go, you could probably point your camera anywhere and find something worthwhile for your photo album, but it probably won’t compare to how you felt when you saw the balloons take flight on that perfect morning, or when all the balloons lit up at once in the dark of night.
The Colorado Balloon Classic wraps up with the final session on Labor Day.
For More Info: Visit the Colorado Balloon Classic website for more event info.