This past weekend the Casablanca Hotel and Casino hosted the annual Mesquite Balloon Festival. Much anticipation surrounds this event and people come from all over to watch the colorful balloons light up the sky. The balloons were scheduled to launch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings at 7:30 local time.
The Mesquite Festival first premiered on January 17, 2012. The two-day event included launches, tethered rides, and a night glow. The event has grown to include 3 days of morning flights, 2 evenings of the night glow, and live entertainment in the Skydome Lounge in Casablanca.
A small group of about 50 people waited in anticipation on Friday to view the liftoff, but Mother Nature was not cooperating. There were a lot of disappointed folks up on the hill, but we understood the safety of the pilots and crew was of utmost importance. Some of the spectators that I talked to came from as far away as Las Vegas. Many were first-time visitors to this event, and I even spoke to some that had never been able to see the balloons fly before. A hopeful group, we waited for about an hour and a half past scheduled liftoff and then gave the day up in defeat.
Saturday morning brought more winds to the Arizona Strip, but we are a hearty group and we decided to take the chance that Mesquite was in a different weather pattern. And Mother Nature didn’t disappoint us on this day. The winds were very light, the sun warm and the pilots were ready.
The first balloon began filling up at approximately 7:30 AM, and others soon followed. The crowd on this day was massive. The entire area where we were parked was filled to capacity with vehicles and spectators. The balloons rose pretty straight up and then headed west. Some of them stayed to the south of the interstate and just as many went to the north. What a beautiful sight to see. I watched the liftoffs from my vantage point on the east side of the mesa and then walked over to the southwest side where I could watch them all in flight.
Some made it a short flight, but others went what looked like several miles into the desert South of Bunkerville. The Vehicles on the Interstate got quite a show as many of the balloons slowly drifted over the tops of them.
The show lasted for a little over an hour and a half and then sadly, it was over. If you ever have a chance to see a balloon launch in person, take it. Watching them fill up, rise, and float among the sky is magical. It amazes me every time I see it how the pilots are able to land in just the perfect spot for their crew to come and help with packing it up.
This spectator would like to give many thanks to the hardworking volunteers, crew and pilots that made the magic possible. Safe travels until we meet again next year!