KSL Outdoors: Southern Utah hot air balloon festival

(Intro, Adam Eakle) Welcome to KSL Outdoors, I’m Adam Eakle. Boy have we got a really cool show for you tonight. We are down in the little town of Bluff, it’s the 15th annual hot air balloon festival and simon says we’re going up.

(Matt McClary, North Ogden Pilot) It’s just an amazing place to fly.

(Rick Simon “Simon Says” Pilot) We are going to inflate the balloon with cold air.

(Judy Simon, Crew Chief “Simon Says”) We are tabbing in the top, the only reason we tab it in is to hold the fan air in.

(Rick Simon) Once we get it inflated with cold air, we are going to heat it up.

nats putting heat into balloon

(rick) stand up the balloon.

It takes quite of bit of huffing and puffing to launch a balloon. Twenty five crews from all over the West have converged on the small town of Bluff for this years festival. Watching these crews ready the balloons is like watching a pit crew at Nascar.

(Matt) There’s a waiting list of four to five years to get in here and it’s just an amazing thing to see.

(Rick) Load up, we are out of here!

We’re flying with Rick Simon from Montrose Colorado on his balloon they’ve aptly named… Simon Says.

nats of Adam crossing heart

(Music and video, nats)

[Notes:Cover bite with flying video]

(Matt) it’s the closest form of levitation that you can do in a human form. Cause you are just floating around. It’s a sensation, you can’t replace it, there is noway to describe it, you have to do it.

(nats of flame)

(Rick Simon) I always refer to this as pure flight, this is the first form of manned flight. It started in 1783. It’s just a fascination, it’s like being a bird. We get out over the trees and it’s almost like you’ve got wings, it’s so cool. Just a great sport.

(Rick Olivares) you are not afraid are you? (adam) I’m doing good, but you notice I have a death grip on anything I can hold onto. But I’m doing good, it’s a lot different than flying in helicopters. For some reason I get woosy in helicopters, but in this I feel totally safe. It’s hard to describe how calm it is.

Rick got the bug to fly 25 years ago at a balloon festival in his home town of Montrose. Rick bought “simon Says” eight years ago for twenty five thousand dollars and now has over seven hundred flying of hours under his belt. He and his crew soar all over the Southwest. They’ve even participated in the largest balloon festival in the world held every year in Albuquerque.

(Rick) I flew Albuquerque for five years and you know 600-1000 balloons, it’s just not my style. The smaller rally’s is what we choose to go to just because the intimacy of the crowd, most of the pilots we fly with like the small rally’s.

There are a few dozen pilots in Utah and even though we don’t have a ballooning organization in Utah, we still have plenty of opportunities for families to see the balloons fly at small festivals like this one. Many even offer you a chance to sponsor a flight and take your family up to soar with the birds.

(matt) Springville has a balloon festival for their art city days. Salina has a balloon festival, Panguitch has a wonderful event that’s right before the fourth of July.

(matt) and then on Labor Day Weekend there is a balloon festival on Antelope Island.

These pilots say this is one of their favorite festivals every year. The scenery is unmatched.

(Rick) tomorrow with this rally we go out to the Valley of the Gods, which is like a mini Monument Valley, it’s a beautiful area, just gorgeous.

(Matt McClary, North Ogden Pilot) You’ve got the buttes, the scenery, the culture the people. It’s not just about the flying, it’s about everything that encompasses it. You’ve got the Anasazi, you’ve got ruins, you’ve got petroglyphs, you have people that are very nice.

(matt) it’s not just one thing, it’s everything.

(Rick) ok guys here we are.

(landing nats) (adam) contact.

(Tag) (rick) landed safely, we can re-use the equipment, we’re good. (adam) that’s a good day. (rick) yup. (adam) and you said there is a ceremony we’ve got to go to? (rick) yeah, we are going to treat you to a ceremony to celebrate your first flight and you’ll become an official argonaut. (adam) I love it, hey we’ll have more down here from Bluff and the beautiful scenery here in a moment, but first tonights quiz question.


nats of balloon near ours

(Marcia Hadenfeldt, Member Bluff Balloon Commitee) The main focus is the balloons themselves. But because they take off early in the morning for sometimes a very short time but typically an hour or so if not more. The event seems to end at that moment. So we’ve tried to add things to add excitement to the weekend. Friday night we had the school make us some Navaho fry bread and that has turned into the Bluff Elementary Schools biggest fundraiser event of the year.

(Marcia) Saturday we have an arts festival that goes on during the day. Artists from around the 4 corners area, everything from little trinkets and toys and fine beaded jewelry and others, fine arts including paintings and such.

This balloon festival is a big event for such a small town. Money raised here goes right back into the community. Sponsors pay to go on flights and pilots, crew and locals compete for bragging rights by collecting the most money for the best dish in a friendly, but very competitive competition called the southwest cook off.

(Matt) we’ve got elk, green chili and Anasazi beans, it has a wonderful flavor.

(Marcia) I had some bread pudding that is to die for. I of course baked the perfect popcorn cookie.

(Adam) who’s got more money Colleen? (colleen) uh me. (jody) that’s because her husband put it in there. I got a $100.00 bill and she tried to steal it. (colleen) I’m still going to steal it. (judy) and not from my husband.

(matt) there is competition here. (laughs)

The cook off raises nearly a thousand dollars each year. All of the proceeds go back to the Business Owners of Bluff who use the money for community organizations and promotions.

(Marcia) we have darling little apron gifts and you would think we were giving away the moon because everyone just loves to win this happy day event.

(Colleen Johnson, Albuquerque Pilot) Flying along the rocks and the culture and meeting new people, it’s super fun.

some type of balloon nat

These big, colorful balloons are flown by a big, colorful cast of characters with hearts as large as their balloons. A few years ago, the festival was nearly cancelled, but the balloonist would allow it. The chance to fly in such spectacular scenery with support from the entire community has them fighting to come back.

(Rick) This can’t go away, it’s too much fun here, too much fun..

Coming up on KSL Outdoors.

(Vaugh Hadenfeldt) what I like about this area is we are in one of the best outdoor museums in the world.

The area surrounding Bluff is rich in natural history. We introduce you to a man who has devoted his life to preserving these historical sites and how you and your family can come down and enjoy them.

(Tag, toss to Fishing Report) the balloon festival is as much a social event as it is a chance for the pilots to come down and experience a little bit of the wilds here in Southeastern Utah. Looks like Steve’s BBQ brisket is getting quite a bit of money, he’s looking for that blue ribbon, first place in the competition. Hey back now to the guys in Salt Lake for tonights Fishing Report.


(Adam) Welcome back to KSL Outdoors, I’m Adam Eakle. Well the weather doesn’t allow the pilots to take their balloons out during the middle of the day, so what to do, well look around there is so much to do. That’s where we hooked up Far Out Expeditions.

(music, native american theme?)

(Vaughn Hadenfeldt, FarOutExpeditions.com) I have a major focus on pre-history in this region. My background is in archeology.

Meet local guide Vaughn Hadenfeldt, who for the past 30 years has been taking people into the canyon country of Southeastern Utah.

(Vaughn Hadenfeldt) Predominately Cedar Mesa, Butler Wash, Comb Ridge area and look at the pre-history here, rock art, ruins, all of the things left by past native american cultures.

nats walking

Vaugh is taking us into Butler Wash. A drainage that flows at the base of Comb Ridge that has over 300 recorded archeological sites. It’s a chance for us to step back in time to take a look at the Pueblo ancestral indians that used to inhabit this area, people often referred to as the Anasazi.

[Notes:cover bite with us walking??]

(Vaughn) what I like about this area is we are in one of the best outdoor museums in the world.

(Vaughn) This panel is called “Wolf Man Panel.”

(Vaughn) We feel that most of this panel was done by one artisan. His use of negative, positive spacing on his rock art images, leaving the desert varnish as part of the motif of the thing.

(Vaughn) up above me you have, I think you have, i think it’s a bird upside down on a crooked neck staff. 33;52 and crook necked staffs are real things that these folks were using, we find them the archeological record in sites.

(Vaughn) and then I think you are right this looks like a mask. This is a yucca in bloom.

(Vaughn) the most unique anthromorph I think in rock art in this region is what we call Mr. Wolfman. The big human character there. And what makes him unique is the musculature. You don’t don’t typically see that in rock art, it more typically stick figures.

Vaughn is dedicated to preserving the magic of this canyon country experience. His passion for archaeological sites, especially rock art, is what distinguishes his trips. He educates people of the land, the culture and most important…he educates people oh how they might tread lightly when visiting these historical sites, something he takes very seriously.

(Vaughn) You don’t want to touch them. And people…why you don’t want to touch things is because you can leave the oil from your fingers on the rock art. Same thing if you visit a ruin, don’t put your hands on the door as you look in, eventually that is going to turn into a grease bomb.

(Chris Forsdick, SLC) I think this is really cool. I have not seen so many pieces of rock art in one spot. Different things to see.

(Vaughn) this was a habitation site.

(Vaughn) We call these beam sockets, so they have intentionally pecked in here, created a space for a wood beam to rest in here. So you had a roof, some sort of structure at one point.

(Vaughn) you know we all create impacts, I make my living guiding people to archeological sites, that’s an impact. I’ll try my best and point out what they should and should not be doing, but the bottom line is we are all creating impacts to those kinds of sites when we visit them.

(Vaughn) that’s hopefully one of the reasons people hire me is for the educational part. What to do and what they are looking at.

(music sting)

(Tag) There is just so much to see and learn down here in Southern Utah and I’ll guarantee we’ll be back to learn more from Vaughn. If you want to come down here and experience it with him. Check out his website at faroutexpeditions.com. Time now to dive into tonights Utah Field Guide.

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