For five days every year, hot air balloon pilots assemble in Ann Morrison park for a group launch. This year's Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic will have nearly 15 balloons in the sky on the first day, Wednesday, Aug. 29, lifting off just after 7 a.m. by the direction of Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. Launches will occur daily at about the same hour throughout the festival.
Hot air balloon enthusiasts have made colorful orbs above the Boise skyline a staple each year since 1991, when Scott Spencer and Steve Schmader produced the first event for the Boise River Festival. Wednesday, Aug. 29, through Sunday, Sept. 2, balloons will be launched en masse to commemorate the third decade of the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, now celebrating nearly 5,000 balloon flights.
Hot air balloon pilots are somewhat subject to the whims of Mother Nature, and this mode of transportation affords little ability to steer. Once airborne, the wind's movement through the valley shapes the route balloons take. Balloons float along the wind as it moves over the terrain below. In the right weather, though, pilots can pull off tricky maneuvers like the "splash and dash," in which the basket briefly kisses the waters of the Boise river.
This year's festivities include live music, balloon inflation demonstrations and a POW/MIA tribute. Even the "Happiest Balloon on Earth" from Disneyland will make a debut.
Pilots will participate in navigational tasks the morning of Saturday, Sept. 1, and even those who struggle to find their inner early bird can enjoy some ballooning fun at the Nite Glow celebration that evening, when grounded balloons will light up like giant lanterns, surrounded by food vendors and live music before the final launch, aka the "last dance," takes place Sunday, Sept. 2.