KANAB – A drab, gray sky exploded with color Friday morning as balloon enthusiasts from all over the country launched their bright vessels into the February sky, kicking off the very first Balloons & Tunes Roundup in Kanab.
To watch videocast, click play arrow center of image above.
This three-day festival continues through Sunday, chockfull of mammoth hot air balloons in all their splendor as well as a three-day battle of the bands event, a street fair and other happenings for balloonatics and curious observers alike to enjoy and take part in.
The new event was dreamed up by the Kane County Utah Office of Tourism as a means of stimulating the area’s tourist traffic during a more sluggish time of year.
“This is our shoulder season. It’s kind of a slow time of year, so we wanted to give it a kick,” Camille Johnson, assistant director of tourism for Kane County, said.
In addition to giving the local economy a shot in the arm, the event also showcases the Kanab area’s beauty from a unique vantage point.
Craig and Jennie Jansson, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, traveled to Utah’s color country with their four children to attend the festival. With their kids acting as crew members, the Janssons launched their balloon, “Spirit in the Sky,” in an opening balloon launch to kick off the festival Friday, among the other ballooners in attendance.
Craig Jansson said a balloon like theirs, purchased brand new, would set a person back about $50,000.
“I always laugh when people say, ‘You have a balloon! You must have a lot of money,’” he said with a smile. “The truth is, because I have a balloon I don’t have a lot money.”
Despite the price tag, a passion for the sport spurs the Jansson family, and other balloon enthusiasts like them, to follow the air currents across the country in pursuit of their sky-high pastime.
Once “Spirit in the Sky” was launched from the Coral Cliffs Golf Course in Kanab Friday morning, Jennie Jansson and the kids followed in a chase vehicle. The balloon and chase truck keep in contact by radio, Craig Jansson said, so the chase vehicle can be alerted to any problems in the sky and can be apprised of the balloon’s touchdown location, which literally changes with the wind.
At the end of the ride, Craig Jansson aimed to touchdown on the runway at the Kanab Municipal Airport – but the wind had other ideas, and “Spirit in the Sky” ended up landing in a muddy, brush-covered field adjacent to the runway. With feet heavily caked in mud, the crew “walked” the balloon out of the field, struggling through thick brush and stickers, before the vessel could be deflated, packed up and loaded in the back of the chase truck.
With a winter weather forecast looming over the remainder of the weekend, Craig Jansson said he’s not sure whether “Spirit” will be able to launch again as planned on Saturday and Sunday, but he’s hopeful.
“We are so weather dependent,” he said. “It’s a gamble we take.”
If the weather doesn’t permit “Spirit in the Sky” and the other balloons to fly safely on Saturday and Sunday, Johnson said, plenty of other Balloons & Tunes events will continue on, including a “Balloon Glow” on Saturday, during which all the participating balloons will be lined up along Center Street in Kanab from 7-8 p.m., fully inflated with flames glowing.
“It’s kind of like a parade,” Johnson said. “It’s beautiful.”
Other events will include a street fair on Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. along Main Street with music, food, games and crafts. There will also be a lantern launch from 8-9 p.m. on Saturday. A competition will additionally take place Saturday for the ballooners, weather permitting, and participants will attempt to drop sandbags from the air and hit a target, with prizes going to the winners.
The battle of the bands, featuring just under 20 participating bands from throughout Southern Utah, will continue Saturday at Kanab Elementary School, 41 W. 100 North. Admission is free, Johnson said, and attendees who purchase an event T-shirt will be able to vote for the battle of the bands winners.
The stars of the show, the balloons, will launch at 7 a.m. each day of the festival, weather permitting, at the Coral Canyon Golf Course, 755 E. Fairway Drive. Spectators can only watch, Johnson said, though if they volunteer to help out as crew members the balloon pilots may let them ride as thanks for their assistance.
“It’s kind of like watching an air show,” Johnson said, “but there is the possibility of getting a ride if they help crew.”
Admission to Balloons & Tunes and its accompanying events is free.
- Saturday, Feb. 28
- 7 a.m. Balloons launch for sponsor flights, weather permitting; competition day at Coral Cliffs Golf Course, 755 E. Fairway Drive
- 7-9 a.m. Lions Club breakfast at Coral Cliffs Golf Course
- 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Battle of the bands continues at Kanab Elementary School, 41 W. 100 North
- 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Street fair on Main Street
- 5-6 p.m. Street Zumba
- 6 p.m. Battle of the Bands winners announced
- 7-10 p.m. Battle of the Bands winners perform
- 7-8 p.m. Balloon Glow on Center Street, weather permitting
- 8-9 p.m. Lantern launch
- Sunday, March 1
- 7 a.m. Hot air balloon launch for crew appreciation flights at Coral Cliffs Golf Course, weather permitting
- 9-11 a.m. Crew appreciation brunch at Parry Lodge, 89 E. Center St. Public welcome.
- What: Kanab Balloons & Tunes Roundup
- When: Continues Saturday, Feb. 28, and Sunday, March 1
- Where: Various locations in Kanab, Utah
- Admission: Free
- Details: Kane County Tourism website | Facebook
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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- High winds ground balloons, festival goes on; STGnews videocast, photo gallery
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