Last weekend in the early morning, hot air balloons could be seen flying through the sky over Winnemucca. The 7th Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival brought eight hot air balloons to Winnemucca for the four-day event.
“It was the best event we had in the seven-year history,” said Jeremy Crosby, Winnemucca Balloons director of operations.
Pilot Jeff Haliczer took his “Off the Wall” balloon out to Paradise Valley school on Thursday, May 17, giving the kids and parents tethered rides in the upside down Humpty Dumpty shaped balloon. Two pilots went to French Ford Middle School and Sonoma Heights Elementary School on Friday to show their balloons. Friday night the pilots brought their balloons out for a glow show, which brought hundreds of people to the Winnemucca sports complex to see the balloons lit up in the dark, also known as the light bulb effect in the hot air balloon industry.
Saturday morning, four of the eight balloons took flight before the wind picked up, disallowing the other pilots from launching, as hot air balloons are sensitive to wind and it can be unsafe to fly balloons as wind speeds exceed the recommended 4-6 miles per hour.
Sunday morning all eight balloons were able to launch, but no rides to the public were given this year due to the weather. This year’s pilots were from all over including Montana, Texas, Idaho, California and throughout northern Nevada.
The event was started in 2012 by Crosby, who took his first balloon ride when he was a teenager in Gardnerville and fell in love with the experience. He has since gone on over 30 balloon rides. “It’s just so amazing when you’re up in the sky,” he said.
After Crosby moved to Winnemucca, he learned that there hadn’t been a hot air balloon event here for some years and assembled a committee who has brought the event to Winnemucca ever since.
The balloon pilots competed in a game where a giant X was placed on the ground and a frisbee is thrown from the balloon in the air to see who lands closest to the target. Pilot Jeff Haliczer won the prize this year, landing his frisbee within 15 feet of the target.
The event funding each year depends on sponsorships and donations from businesses and individuals, which is used to give the pilots a small stipend for the cost of their travels. “We’re always looking for more people to get involved and help with the planning of this, because it’s an all-year process,” said Crosby.
There is a photography contest to go along with the event; individuals who would like to enter their balloon photos to possibly win a prize can send up to 10 photos to be considered to firstname.lastname@example.org. Crosby said to make sure to include names and emails with submissions. Entries are accepted until May 28.
Anyone interested in helping with the event can also contact the above email address or send a message to their Facebook page.