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Balloonists take to the sky on Sept. 5
September 03, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
After an absence of almost 30 years, balloon pilots will paint colorful accents across the west Nebraska skies as the “Old West Balloon Fest …Re-Inflated” returns on Saturday, Sept. 5.

The day-long event in Mitchell is more than just hot air. It includes 13 hours of live music, the Bluffs Breeze Kite Festival, Kids Zone activities, food and craft vendors and a balloon glow that night. Because there will also be Wifi capability, attendees can take pictures to post on their social media sites. For those unable to attend, events will be streamed live on the oldwestballoonfest.com website.

“We’re thrilled that the Old West Balloon Fest Re-Inflated has attracted and exciting line-up of beautiful and unique balloons,” said Becky Horne, Festival Co-Chair. “The pilots all agree that ballooning is a family friendly sport for spectators, pilots and crews.”

Eighteen balloon pilots representing seven states are coming for the event. One pilot from Kentucky will be flying in a balloon that resembles the Alice in Wonderland character Humpty Dumpty.

The Saturday morning launch gets underway early at the old Mitchell Airport south of town. Gates open at 5:30 a.m. as pilots get their balloons inflated, which takes about an hour. The public is invited to come out, watch the preparations and get some great photos. Food vendors will also be available for coffee and breakfast.

“Because of the weather, there’s a small window of opportunity for launch,” Horne said. “The pilots hope to have their balloons in the air by 7:30 or 8 a.m.”

The group has a contingency date if the balloons are unable to launch on Saturday. That will take place on Monday, Sept. 7.

Just after the balloon launch, the Bluffs Breeze Kite Festival happens, also at the old Mitchell Airport. Running throughout the day, the event features kite demonstrations, parachute races (a foot race while dragging a parachute), and lots of flying fun.

Organizer Curt Giebler has hosted the festival the past two years at Five Rocks Amphitheater over Labor Day weekend. This year, the event is at Mitchell for Sept. 5, then continuing Sept. 6 and 7 at Five Rocks.

Many oversized kites will be flying, including one that’s over 75 feet in length and 15 feet wide. Kites will also be on sale for people to take into the sky.

“One of the spectators’ favorites is our massive 50 foot wind turbine that spins,” Giebler said. “It’s great for family photos, so bring a camera.”

Free shuttle service will be available from the airport to the fairgrounds and also from locations in Scottsbluff throughout the day. Check the website for information. Because there is limited parking at the fairgrounds, people are encouraged to take the shuttle.
The Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds opens at 11 a.m. with live entertainment on the stage for the next 13 hours. Performers include Gabriel Tyce Bruton, Avid Dischord, Lazerwolfe, 5 to Life and headliners Dirty Word from St. Paul, Minn.
Tickets for the music festival are $20 in advance, available on the website. Other ticket locations are Aulick’s TLC The Lifestyle Center, Fremont Motors, Platte Valley Bank main branch in Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau at Legacy of the Plains Museum, and Pinnacle Bank and S&S Plumbing, both in Mitchell. Tickets at the door are $25. There will also be a beer garden at the music event.

In addition to the music, ticket holders will be able watch a “night glow” from 8 to 9 p.m. as the balloons will be tethered at the fair rodeo grounds.

The Kids Zone is also open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Inflatables will be set up and there will be games, face painting, arts and crafts, food vendors, a 20-foot bubble tower and appearances from the newly crowned Miss Balloon Festival and Miss Balloon Festival Outstanding Queen. Local school cheer and dance squad will also perform and live entertainment in the dance zone.
And don’t forget the pick up a T-shirts or collectors’ pins to mark this commemorative event.
Photographers of all ages are also invited to submit their best pictures of the event for the Old West Balloon Fest Photography Contest. Plaques and cash prizes will be awarded for the best entries. Take your framed entry to the West Nebraska Arts Center from Oct. 6 to 11. Pictures will be on display from Oct. 15 to Nov. 2.

Photographers may enter up to three pictures. Entry fee is $12 each for adults and professional photographers and $5 each for youth. Check out the Festival website, oldwestballoonfest.com, for entry forms. They’re also available at the arts center, 106 East 18th St., in Scottsbluff.
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