Morning launch of 30 hot air balloons kicks off annual Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally

PANGUITCH — Fair weather and a hint of a breeze proved to be favorable conditions Friday morning with some 30 hot air balloons taking to the skies as the annual Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally got off the ground.

Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, Panguitch, Utah, June 26, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cedar City News hitched a ride with avid balloonist Sen. Curt Bramble, a Utah state senator since 2001. Bramble’s two red, white and blue patriotic themed balloons, known as “Stars and Stripes,” sport the tail numbers 1776N and 1776H.

He joked that whenever he takes his fellow legislators up in his balloon, so much hot air is generated that no propane is necessary.

Bramble said his love for ballooning all started in 1973, right after he moved from the Midwest to Utah to attend Brigham Young University.

“I was mesmerized by the mountains, the desert,” he said. “I made a list of 25 things I was going to do in life. I didn’t call it a bucket list. I was 19 years old.”

Bramble said he spent the next decade accomplishing nearly every item on the list, including making several mountain climbs, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and going both hang gliding and skydiving.

“By 1983, 10 years later, I’d done 24 out of the 25 things,” he said. “The only thing I had not done was ballooning.”

Curt Bramble and helpers take down a balloon after landing, Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, Panguitch, Utah, June 26, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

A year or so later, Bramble said he was approached by Panguitch resident Bill Talbot, then a senior vice president of Zions Bank, to see if he would help organize a balloon rally for the town. 

“I said, ‘Sure, but I get to go for a flight,’” Bramble said. “About 30 days later, I had my pilot’s license, and another 45 or 90 days or something later, I got my commercial ticket, and the rest is history.”

Now, some 36 years later, Bramble has logged over 5,000 hours in the air while piloting balloons across five continents. His love of ballooning has been avidly shared by his family, spanning multiple generations.

At the conclusion of Friday morning’s hourlong ride, Bramble had expertly set the craft down a short distance from the back lawn of Garfield Memorial Hospital, after which he and his crew of helpers carefully took down the balloon and its basket, or gondola, and loaded them back in the transport trailer.

A balloon lies draped over utility lines after suffering a landing mishap on U.S. 89 during the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, Panguitch, Utah, June 26, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Frank Kay Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Friday’s launch went smoothly, save for one minor mishap when a balloon came down on the roadway of U.S. Highway 89, its fabric draped over a couple of utility lines. No injuries were reported, but the balloon was left with a few holes in it, Panguitch event manager Steven Lee told Cedar City News. 

Weather permitting, Bramble and the other balloonists hope to be able to launch again both Saturday and Sunday morning as the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally continues through the weekend. Any inclement weather, including winds of more than 10 mph, will result in the balloons being grounded, event officials said.

The festival includes street vendors, free games and other activities along Panguitch’s Main and Center streets from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Live music also starts at 7 p.m. both nights. See their flyer for a detailed schedule, or visit the event’s page at

Saturday morning’s 5K race to benefit the Panguitch High School cross-country team has already attracted a record 120-plus participants, organizers said. Online registration is closed, but in-person registrations will be accepted until 6:30 a.m. Saturday, with the race scheduled to start at 7 a.m. at the Triple C Arena on the north end of town. 

Weather permitting, the balloons in the street may be filled with air for a “balloon glow” Saturday night between 9 and 10 p.m.

To see more of Friday’s launch, check out the Cedar City News video above and the photo gallery below.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!