Rainbow Weekend is undoubtedly one of the most colorful and festive weekends in Steamboat Springs. During the second weekend in July, Steamboat plays host to a number of fun and exciting events, including the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Art in the Park. In addition to these signature events, visitors and locals can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Farmers Market, go for a hike at Fish Creek Falls, or catch the adrenaline pumping action at the Pro Rodeo Series.
Hot Air Balloon Rodeo
Here in the Yampa Valley, we have the pleasure of seeing hot air balloons on a pretty regular basis. However, there is nothing quite like the experience you will find at the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Not only do you get to watch 30+ colorful balloons take flight, you also have the unique opportunity of walking among the balloons and meeting the pilots.
Last weekend I set my alarm for 5 am and sleepily rode my bike south of town to the launch field at Bald Eagle Lake. The crews were still getting the balloons organized, so I took advantage of the down time to grab a breakfast burrito and cup of coffee. A steady stream of people began flowing into the venue, and as I finished my breakfast, the first balloons started to inflate.
A Vocabulary All Their Own
For being so large, it was pretty impressive to see how quickly the balloons inflated. The crews start by laying out the lifting envelope (the fabric balloon portion) and connecting the basket or gondola. Using high powered fans, they blow air into the mouth or throat of the balloon, until it is inflated enough to stand upright. At that point the real fun begins, and the pilot fires up the propane burners and shoots short blasts of warm air into the balloon. The burners are like the balloons engine, sending warm air into the envelope, which gives the balloon lift.
Up Up And Away
As if a switch had been flipped, the quite calm of the early morning is instantly filled with a flurry of activity. Fans are buzzing, burners are hissing, and crew members are barking orders across the field. The sea of spectators is jolted out of their sleepy stupor and the launch field is now buzzing with excitement. In a matter of minutes, the area is filled with balloons of every shape, size and color. It’s hard to stay focused with so much activity, and I bounce around from one balloon to another, like a ping pong ball between paddles.
After most of the balloons have launched, our attentions turn to Bald Eagle Lake where the pilots are expertly navigating their balloons over the water. They slowly drop lower and lower until they skim quietly across the surface of the lake. Onlookers cheer wildly with every “splash down”, while the less impressed youngsters catch frogs along the lake shore. After carefully dipping their baskets, the pilots add a few blasts of warm air to their balloons, and float up and away from the crowd.
Some of the balloons are carried by the winds to distant corners of the valley, while others catch a fortunate breeze, allowing them to land back at the launch site. Although there is still plenty to see, I decide to hop on my bike and head downtown.
Art in the Park
After a quick stop at the framers market to grab a snack, I continue down the core trail to West Lincoln Park and the 44th Annual Art in the Park. This event, hosted annually by the Steamboat Springs Art Council, is free to the public and features over 150 artists, live entertainment, and a variety of food and drink vendors.
Although I have been to this event a number of times, there is always something new to see. I weave in and out of the vendor tents, perusing through everything from funky shoes and jewelry, to stained glass and gallery quality paintings.
The Geode Guys
I am a bit of a rock hound, so eventually I make my way over to The Geode Guys booth. This has been a tradition of mine for several years now, and I love the excitement and mystery that accompanies cracking open geodes. A crowd has gathered around the cracking station, and everyone anxiously watches as each rock is cracked, and the mysteries inside are revealed.
I pick out a relatively unassuming round geode from the basket, and when it is finally my turn to crack it, I am pleasantly surprised at what I find inside. The geode sparkles in the mid-morning sunlight, and is filled with beautiful crystals and bands of light blue stone. A perfect addition to my growing collection, because you’re never too old to collect rocks!
It is starting to get warm, so I quickly stop for a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade, and find a shady spot by the river to relax. It’s only 11 AM, and yet I have already experienced so many of the fun activities that Rainbow Weekend has to offer. I am tired after the early morning wake-up call, so it’s back on my bike to head home for lunch and an afternoon siesta in my hammock.
Emily Hines is the marketing and special events coordinator for the City of Steamboat Springs. Emily was born and raised in the Yampa Valley and attended the University of Oregon, where she received a Bachelor of Science in business administration with concentrations in marketing and sports business. In 2013, after seven years working on the East Coast for a lifestyle and sports marketing agency, she found her way back home to Steamboat. She loves the outdoors and enjoys sharing her adventures and all that Steamboat has to offer.
Read more from Emily here.
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