HomeUSAThe International Balloon Festival returns to High River, Alta.OUS News

The International Balloon Festival returns to High River, Alta.OUS News

The windswept prairies east of the Rocky Mountains seem like an unlikely place for a hot air balloon festival, but the city of High River, Alta, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

More than 20 colorful balloons, including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee, and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god, took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to rise. – air time on the occasion of the opening of the International Balloon Festival at the Heritage Inn.

“We have about 50 percent of our flights cancelled. The weather affects us everywhere,” said event director Jamie Kinghorn, who is also a member of the city council.

“This is our 10th in a row. We started in 2013 partly because of the flood that happened. I’ve been to a few balloon launch events and thought it might cheer up the townspeople.”

The city of 12,000 south of Calgary gained international profile in 2013 when flooding in parts of southern Alberta caused billions of dollars in damage.

High River was one of the most affected communities. Entire areas were under water for weeks.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including those from the US, Belgium and the UK. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

“I called a group of friends from the ballooning community and they knew what happened, so 20 of them came to High River and we had a hot air balloon festival, which was really amazing for the community,” Kinghorn said.

“It was kind of the first major step towards flood recovery, and we’ve been doing it every year since the end of September.”

Kinghorn said the festival is a boon for local tourism and there is no hotel room in the city.

He raised his first hot air balloon over the city of Calgary in 1988. A year later, he became a balloon pilot.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including those from the US, Belgium and the UK.

Kinghorn said it’s a pretty small community.

“We tend to meet at various events. We tend to travel,” he said. “We travel to different cities for different events with balloons.”

Alan Davidson, who has been involved in the sport since 1977, is one of the volunteers.

He said those who interfere tend to stick with it.

“The amazing thing is that seven or eight people I flew with in a hot air balloon in the 70s and early 80s are still here at this event,” Davidson said. “They’ve been working with balloons for over 40 years.”

Kinghorn, who owns and pilots the Eye of Ra, was the first balloon in the air on Thursday morning after Wednesday’s evening flight was canceled due to wind.

“My God, I’m glad we got through this,” he said as the flight drew to a close.

The festival will run until Sunday.