It’s a sight to be seen: the wonder and beauty of the giant hot air balloons lifting off from high in the Telluride mountains. They fly up and away, taking away with them the breath of the young and old. They soar up and over the aspens and pine trees in shades of greens, blues, golds, reds, and other incredible colors. Some have faces; Some have shapes and designs; Others just are.
Held every year in the summer season, the Telluride Balloon Festival has been a favorite for almost thirty years. And, it’s still going strong. Usually, on the first weekend in June, the Balloon Festival schedules its events for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s a quieter festival in town. There is no music or vending or promotion really of any sort, though you will find a local youth group selling pastries and other baked goods. But, those who know, know. It’s the weekend of the Telluride Balloon Festival. And, if you don’t know, there is the banner hanging across Colorado Avenue at the intersection of Oak Street. As with all festivals in Telluride, the banner announces the event, and banners change every weekend.
The Telluride Balloon Festival is an opportunity for locals and visitors, alike, to balloon gaze and see the majesty of the giant floating bubbles taking off, but it is also a chance for some to get a ride. The early bird gets the worm, and the Telluride Balloon Festival is no exception. Participation involves getting up and getting there. Starting very early, at 6:00 am – 6:15 am, the pilot briefings occur. With locations in Town Park and on Main Street, those wishing to take part in the Telluride Balloon Festival can choose their selected area. After the pilot briefing, the inflation begins. It really is a spectacular event for young people, and even adults, to have the chance to see the flames that fire and fuel the balloons. It can also be a lesson in science and chemistry.
The Town Park location, east on Colorado Avenue and home to many Telluride festivals, is the actual departure area. It is here that balloons will lift off and make their journeys. For those wishing to have the tethered ride experience, the main street is the best bet. Here, 2-3 people can climb aboard, station themselves in a basket, and have the take-off moment, while still remaining tied to the ground. The senses really get the full effect- the hissing of the flames, the ground below becoming smaller, the basket beneath become lighter. Saturday night hosts the GLO event, the culminating activity of Telluride Balloon Festival, with the lighting of the balloons on the main street. From 8:45 pm to 9:30 pm, the balloons are illuminated in the Telluride canyon.
Jackets are always recommended for early and late temperatures. And, watch the weather. Telluride Balloon Festival requires the cooperation of the elements, including wind and rain. Posters of the Telluride Balloon Festival are for sale and can be purchased on-site or online.
It is through the support and generosity of sponsors that Telluride Balloon Festival is possible and continues.