Mike Reinert of Alta, Iowa, was the only pilot to score points during both days of the 2000 Hot Air Balloon Rodeo at Tennis Meadows over the weekend, and claimed first place in the event.
Reinert accumulated 1,250 points to defeat David Yob of Colorado Springs, who scored 1,000 points, and Dick Atkins of Cheyenne, Wyo., who finished third with 750 points.
Reinert and Yob were tied at 1,000 points apiece after Saturday's competition, but Alta was one of just two pilots to score any points on Sunday. Early morning cloud cover on Sunday rearranged the typical wind patterns, and made it harder for the pilots to formulate a flight plan.
"Choosing the right altitude is going to be the key," crew chief Ed Bosier of Los Alamos, N.M., predicted, moments before 47 balloons lifted into the sky. "The clouds are going to keep the temperature down a little. It could make it easier to fly."
Bosier's prediction didn't prove out, as most of the balloons drifted north of the target zone immediately upon takeoff, and struggled to find a breeze that would bring them back.
Balloon pilots had two ways to score points popping any of four weather balloons tethered over the launch site was worth 750 points. Each balloon basket carried a broom stick with a nail in the end, and securely attached by a rope. The second way to score was to drop a lasso inside a 50-foot target. The "bullseye" was a plastic steer's head affixed to a straw bale.
Any pilot skilled enough to drop a lasso over the horns of the steer could earn 2,000 points, but that didn't happen all weekend. Bosier achieved the win on Sunday simply by dropping a lasso in the overall target zone.
Pilot Merry Fix of Littleton was philosophical about the breezes that were so hard to gauge on Sunday.
"All mountain flying is different," Fix said. She was piloting "Jemez Dreaming," a teal-colored balloon emblazoned with a Southwestern thunderbird. Fix has been piloting at the local balloon event for five years.
Taking her first-ever balloon flight with Fix on Sunday was Kim Blood, a travel agent from Denver. Blood said she was eager for the flight and not the least bit anxious.
Marcia Trask, a first-grade teacher from Petersburgh, N.Y., was less certain about hot-air flight as she watched the balloons rise toward the clouds.
"I think I like the ground," Trask said. "I'd probably be OK once I got up there, but it's my thoughts about getting there."
Trask's daughter-in-law, Darcy Trask of Steamboat, was in one of the baskets. She held onto grandson Trent, while Darcy's husband, Rob, cradled the couple's other son, Peyton. Trent said it made his brother sad to see their mother disappear into the sky.
There was no need for Peyton to worry, all of the balloons returned their passengers safely to terra firma. The top finishers were presented with original works of art by local artists Georgian Kalow, Cher Dooley, Jan Lomas and Linda Wingate.
Other than the local commercial balloon pilots, postmaster Bill Butler was the only Steamboat pilot in the event. He piloted a balloon with blue, purple, teal, orange and red chevrons called "My Multi-Colored Cloud." Butler's balloon failed to score any points.
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