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Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival begins floating at sunrise

News 11's April Hettinger took a ride in the Yuma sky

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - The 31st annual Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival soars into the weekend.

It's two days of food, music, entertainment and you guessed it, hot air balloons!

Caballeros de Yuma is a main sponsor of the event. Dan Tortolano says it's an early start to a beautiful morning.

"We start at the West Wetlands Park. Sunrise. So, come out early," Tortolano explained. "You can walk around with the pilots amongst the balloons so you can really get a sense of the balloons."

Our balloon pilot, Peggy Watson-Meinke has 30 years under her belt.

At its peak, the balloon reached about 1,000 feet. It traveled around 12 miles per hour, but the speed is all dependent on one factor.

"We're at the mercy of the wind. I'm not powering this. It's under the power of the wind completely. I'm not driving it," Watson-Meinke stated.

The balloon's height is equivalent to an eight-story building, and just the balloon itself weighs 265 pounds.

Adding and taking away heat is how the pilot controls the altitude. It's usually about 220 degrees on the inside.

"I burn more if I want to ascend. If I want to come down faster, I pull this red line and that just vents hot air out of the top of the balloon," Watson-Meinke explained.

As we soared over neighborhoods, hundred of dogs were heard barking because of a distinct sound in the balloon not heard by the human ear.

"The burners make a high frequency and that they're not used to hearing, and so we get every dog in the neighborhood barking at us," Watson-Meinke said.

There will be a glowing event starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by a firework show.

Admission is $2 and Caballeros de Yuma is asking for a non-perishable donation which benefits the Yuma Community Food Bank.

"We'll be doing a balloon glow. So, they're tethered to the ground," Tortolano said. "The balloons are inflated and the burner flames are thrown up inside the balloon, and they're illuminated from the inside out to see all their brilliant colors."

Here is a full list of events:

Saturday

  • Sunrise: balloon launch
  • 6:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. music, food and drinks
  • 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. food, drinks and vendors at Desert Sun Stadium
  • 5:30 p.m. Balloon Glow followed by fireworks
  • 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. tethered balloon rides $15

Sunday

  • Sunrise: balloon launch
  • 6:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. music, food and drinks
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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

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