Summer’s End

The Labor Day (USA) holiday weekend usually signifies the end of the summer season. One of the local events, held every Labor Day weekend, is the Colorado Balloon Classic. It draws hot air balloonists from across the state and the nation. This weekend was the 38th annual show.

Since its inception, the Balloon Classic is held at Memorial Park, in Colorado Springs. The park’s central location and ease of access has made it the ideal venue to stage the event. Better yet, it is a free event – making it the biggest draw of the summer season.

mass ascension, Colorado Balloon Classic 2011


The cool mornings and relatively calm weather of the late summer adds to the appeal and success of the show. From the balloonists’ point-of-view, it’s the kind of weather they prefer. Like any other outdoor event, there have been occasions when the flight of balloons has been cancelled due to weather conditions (fog, rain and wind). One year, the balloons didn’t take off due to being too cold.

Since they fly with the prevailing wind, the balloons have overflown our neighborhood many times. The distinctive “whoosh” of the burners, as they light, signals a balloon is near. It’s the sound that sets the neighborhood dogs barking and sends cats into hiding.

approaching from overhead, Colorado Balloon Classic 2010


a perennial fan favorite, Colorado Balloon Classic 2010


approaching from overhead, Colorado Balloon Classic 2010


The more whimsical balloons, like “When Pigs Fly” and the “Energizer Bunny” have made appearances.

“When Pigs Fly”, Colorado Balloon Classic 2010


“Energizer Bunny”, Colorado Balloon Classic 2010


The Bunny, for example, is in such high demand, nationally and internationally, they only fly 5-6 times a year. When they came to the 2010 classic, they joined “When Pigs Fly”, “Dumbo”, and the colossal T-Rex. Though the T-Rex crew wanted to fly, they didn’t make it into the air due to wind concerns. In the early years of the classic, they invited Malcolm Forbes with his giant mansion balloon several times. Like the Bunny, his balloon was in high demand, they flew only a few times a year as well.

Several weeks ago, the organizers for the Balloon Classic announced this would be the last year the event will be held in Colorado Springs. They cited internal city politics and the onerous permitting process as the reasons for leaving. Also, the costs for renting Memorial Park and police/fire coverage have escalated the last several years. As a result, other surrounding areas have made overtures to attract the balloon classic. The suitors include El Paso County and Pueblo. Like all things within Colorado Springs, their city council have reacted in a predictable fashion: sorry to see the Classic leave, now wondering how to keep it from leaving.

Except for this morning’s windy conditions, which prevented their flight, this year’s Balloon Classic was well received. Many hope the City of Colorado Springs can pull itself together and find a way to keep the show. If not, many good memories were made this weekend. Hopefully, the Classic will be able to stay in the region. Many balloonists, from other parts of the country, hopes it remains in the Colorado Springs area. It wouldn’t be the same if they move elsewhere in the state. If not, this kind of scene will fast become memory frozen in time.

overflying the neighborhood, Colorado Balloon Classic 2001