See Steamboat's colorful side

Rainbow Weekend offers hot air balloons, art

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If you can't find something to do in Steamboat Springs this weekend, there's no hope for you. Known for 25 years as Rainbow Weekend, today and Sunday are the busiest days of the summer.

On one end of town art lovers can shop at Art in the Park and be entertained with two full days of free music and dance. Near the mountain in the Meadows Lot, people can watch 45 hot air balloons inflate and lift into the air during the Bank of the West Balloon Rodeo.

Today All day: Ski Town USA Golf Classic Ben-efit for Yampa Valley Medical Center at the Haymaker Golf Course, Sheraton Golf Course and Catamount Ranch & Club All day: 31st annual Cowpie Classic Rugby Tournament at Ski Town Fields 6:40 a.m. Hot air balloon inflation, Meadows Lot 7:15 a.m. Bank of the West Hot Air Balloon Rodeo launch, Meadows Lot 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 31st annual Art in the Park, West Lincoln Park 6:30 p.m. Hazie's Jazz Wine Dinner Begins, top of the gondola, Steamboat Ski Area 7 p.m. Hazie's Martini Bar open, gop of the gondola, Steamboat Ski Area 7:30 p.m. PRCA ProRodeo, Brent Romick Rodeo Arena 8 p.m. "A Romantic Evening of Music," Strings in the Mountains Chamber Concert Series, Strings in the Mountains Festival Park Sunday All Day: 31st annual Cowpie Classic Rugby Tournament, Ski Town Fields 6:40 a.m. Hot air balloon inflation, Meadows Lot 7:15 a.m. Bank of the West Hot Air Balloon Rodeo launch, Meadows Lot 8 a.m. 27th annual Mountain Madness Half Marathon, 10K, two-mile Fun Run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 31st annual Art in the Park, West Lincoln Park 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Brunch on the Mountain, Steamboat Ski Area

"Aside from being one of Steamboat's most popular and most photographed events of the year, the Balloon Rodeo is actually a competition," said Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association spokeswoman Riley Polumbus.

At 6:30 a.m. today and Sunday, spectators can watch the hot air balloons inflate.

"They inflate at different rates, so you get to see the whole process," Polumbus said. By 7:15 a.m., most of the balloons are ready to lift off.

Once in the air, balloon operators compete in two "rodeo" competitions -- the Don Quixote Race and Rodeo Roping.

In the Don Quixote Race, balloon operators use broomsticks with sharpened nails on the end to pop several helium-filled weather balloons tethered 100 feet above the ground. Broomsticks are tied to the basket of each hot air balloon for safety purposes.

"It's fun to watch the balloons jockey for position," Polumbus said.

Although most balloon rides are reserved for sponsors and family members, there is occasionally a chance for a tethered hot air balloon ride, an ideal activity for children.

During Rainbow Weekend, Steamboat is expected to have 10,700 visitors.

"It's a different weekend than anybody else has in Colorado," Polumbus said. "It's beautiful to see this valley filled with balloons, and it's one of our signature events.

"If you see images of Steamboat, you usually see the Cowboy Downhill and you see the balloons."

After 25 years, this will be the last time the Balloon Rodeo can be held in the Meadows Lot near the Steamboat Ski Area, because the Meadows Lot is the future home of the Wild Horse Market.

Organizers are unsure where the event will be held next year.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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