The Pueblo West View

Balloon Classic to highlight holiday weekend activities

CANON CITY — Hot air balloons will puff across the sky in an effort to help buoy tourism while the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is being rebuilt following a June 11 wildfire.

Residents of Fremont County are working to overcome the devastation of last June’s wildfire with ambitious plans to get visitors to the region this summer and it all starts with a Balloon Classic set for Memorial Day weekend, May 24-26 at the grounds of the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, 3011 E. U.S. 50. Balloon pilots will set up balloons starting at 6 a.m. each day in the field southwest of the winery and spectators are invited to watch.

Nine hot-air balloons will launch at about 6:30 a.m. each day and they should be in the air for about an hour, Freda said. An 8 p.m. Saturday balloon glow will provide visitors with a different view of the colorful crafts.

The three-day event will include model rocket launches, skydiving demonstrations, arts and craft booths, food vendors, wine tastings, live entertainment, raffles and more. The winery will release its 2010 American Merlot dubbed “Ascension” in honor of the first balloon classic.

Bands slated to perform Saturday include the Fort Carson Brass Quintet, Inman Brothers band, Tom Hagerman and friends of DeVotchKa and The Haunted Windchimes. Sunday bands on the schedule are the Southern Colorado Community Concert band and Wayne Hammerstadt Jazz Fusion.

The festival is being organized by Create Canon City with technical assistance from a Colorado Springs-based hot-air balloon operation that oversees that city’s Labor Day balloon classic.

Create Canon City, a nonprofit entity, was formed in 2013 with the help of private and business community volunteers. The group works with the Fremont Economic Development Corp. to promote the history and attractions of the region.

“The main function of the balloon festival is to bring people into the county that have not experienced the leisure opportunities and hopefully they will enjoy the experience and come back,” Freda said.

Admission to the event is free to the public, with the Create Canon City Balloon Classic’s funding coming through sponsorships and advertising. Fremont Economic Development Executive Director Rob Brown said the Balloon Classic has the potential to become an “economic engine for our area.”

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