Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, Balloon Glow return this weekend | SteamboatToday.com

Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, Balloon Glow return this weekend

The popular Smokey the Bear hot air balloon flies over the Yampa Valley during the 2015 Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.

— Keep your eyes on the sky this weekend to see nearly 30 hot air balloons soar over the Yampa Valley as part of the area's 35th annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.

Rodeo events take place from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10 at Bald Eagle Lake just south of Steamboat Springs, and the Balloon Glow lights up the sky from 8:15 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the gondola base of Steamboat Ski Area.

There is no parking at the rodeo, but attendees can bring chairs and hop on the shuttle from the Meadows parking lot either morning beginning at 6 a.m.

Spectators should be on the lookout for a unique Smokey the Bear balloon and two of the world's only 12 hand-painted hot air balloons during the rodeo, according to reigning "balloonmeister" Debby Standefer, who will run the show for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association for the fourth time this year.

Standefer has been a hot air balloon pilot for nearly three decades herself, getting hooked on the activity after chasing down a balloon in 1980.

"I fell in love with it," Standefer said. "So I saved all my pennies and nickels until I could buy my own."

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This year's rodeo will have 28 hot air balloons with pilots traveling from other areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Texas to participate.

The popular Smokey the Bear balloon will return to the event this year, Standefer said.

"It's shaped kind of like his head. He's going to be very cool," she said.

Pilot Jon Saey, who usually brings one of his two hand-painted balloons, will bring both the Western Spirit cowboy balloon and the circus carousel Big Top balloon this year.

Balloon pilots will take part in three signature rodeo events each day, including the "splash and dash," where pilots try to touch the balloon basket to the lake water, an attempt to grab onto a helium balloon in the middle of the lake for a prize and an activity where pilots throw bean bags at a marked target on land near the shore of the lake.

Saturday night’s Balloon Glow at Steamboat Ski Area is a good opportunity to see about 10 of the balloons without having to wake up early, Standefer said.

"People can come up and meet the pilots, and the picture taking is great," she said.

Ample free parking is available around the ski area for the Balloon Glow event.

For more details, see steamboatchamber.com/signature-events/hot-air-balloon-rodeo.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

If you go:

What: Hot Air Balloon Rodeo

When: 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10

Where: 35565 South Highway 40, Bald Eagle Lake, approximately 9/10 of a mile south of Walton Creek Road on U.S. Highway 40.

Transportation: Walking or biking to the site is encouraged, or spectators can park at the Meadows Parking Lot on Pine Grove Road and take the shuttle. $5 suggested parking fee. No public parking is available at the lake.

What: Balloon Glow

When: 8:15 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 9

Where: Gondola base area at Steamboat Ski Area

Parking: Free parking around base area

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