Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival fills the skies with romance and magic

MESQUITE, Nev. — The annual “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival” opened Friday morning as dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons took to the skies over the southern Nevada city.

A hot air balloon gets prepared for take-off at the “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival,” Mesquite, Nevada, Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The free, three-day festival features as many as 35 balloons with pilots from all over the western region of the country, and as far away as Kentucky, who come to enjoy the camaraderie as well as the warmer winter temperatures of Mesquite.

This year marked the 9th go-round for the festival which is hosted by Mesquite Gaming, Christian Adderson, corporate sales manager for Mesquite Gaming, said.

The event draws huge crowds who gather at the launch site located across from the CasaBlanca Resort and Casino as well as along the mesas and other vantage points in the city to watch the balloons float through the air.

It is an event and experience that 35-year veteran balloon pilot Bill Howes describes as magical.

“Flying in the balloon is magical,” he said. “Flying a balloon is unique, there’s nothing else like it.”

Howes has been part of every hot air balloon festival held in Mesquite, and even some events prior to the organization of the Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival, he said.

“It’s a good event to have close to home,” the St. George resident said, adding that it always draws some of the best pilots in the western United States.

Hot air balloon shadows dot the ground at the “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival,” Mesquite, Nevada, Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Howes himself, with 3,000 flight hours under his belt, is certainly among the best.

Not bad for a guy who, in the mid-1980s, convinced his friend – not himself – to buy a hot air balloon.

Howes said he had this buddy, who after several failed attempts at action and motorsports, including off-road racing and jet skis, ended up buying a hot air balloon complete with flying lessons at the behest of Howes who had seen the ad in a local circular.

Little did Howes know, that same buddy would recruit him as his chase crew while he learned to fly.

Howes spent about a year as a member of his friend’s chase crew, he said, and when it came time for his buddy to upgrade his balloon, Howes bought the original one from the ad.

He has had about a dozen balloons since, he said.

His current balloon, a 105,000 cubic foot behemoth named “Tequila Sunrise,” comes from the Czech Republic, he said, and it can be seen on any given weekend gracing the Washington County horizon.

Howes, who is also a licensed instructor, said he never gets tired of going up.

“It’s peaceful, romantic, serene,” he said.

At the end of each ride, Howes recites a poem that he superstitiously attributes to keeping him safe for his 35 years of flying.

The poem goes like this:

The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high, and so well, that God has joined you in your laughter, and set you gently back again into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

The 9th annual “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival” continues Friday evening with the world-famous night glow and candlestick event from 6-7 p.m. PST, in the CasaBlanca southwest parking lot under the resort video and marquee sign.

Hot air balloons prepare to launch at the “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival,” Mesquite, Nevada, Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Adderson said watching the beautiful balloons light up against the night sky is his favorite part of the whole event.

The night glow allows guests to get up close and personal with the balloons and their pilots and provides plenty of family-friendly fun for everyone, Adderson said.

Balloons will launch again Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. PST from the Oasis Parking lot across from the CasaBlanca, and another night glow and candlestick show will take place Saturday evening from 6-7 p.m. PST.

The festival will close Sunday with a final launch at 7:30 a.m.

All launches and events are approximate times and dependent on weather conditions. A full schedule of events can be found here.

“It’s just one of the most beautiful things you’re ever going to see,” Adderson said.

Event details

  • What: “Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival.”
  • When: Friday-Sunday, Jan. 24-26. Launches at 7:30 a.m. PST. A full schedule of events can be found here.
  • Where: Balloon launch; Oasis Resort Parking Lot across from the CasaBlanca Resort and Casino; night glow, CasaBlanca southwest parking lot, 950 W. Mesquite Blvd., Mesquite, Nevada.
  • Cost: Free admission.
  • Additional information: All launches including the night glow are weather permitting.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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