Up, up and away.
The annual Ogden Valley Balloon & Artist Festival, a three-day lighter-than-air celebration, returns this weekend to the picturesque mountains east of Ogden.
Terry Murphy, director of the festival for the past six years, says she fell in love with the event at the inaugural festival more than two decades ago.
“You know, there’s just something about hot air balloons,” she said. “If you’ve ever flown in a hot air balloon, it’s really magical. You get a completely different perspective when you take a look at something from above like that.”
The Ogden Valley Balloon & Artist Festival will feature food, 90 vendor booths, tethered balloon rides, entertainment, and much more — including the opportunity to see 16 gigantic hot-air balloons up close and personal.
The festival will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-18, at Eden Park, 2100 N. 5600 East, Eden.
The family-friendly event is free to the public. Murphy says that’s by design, to make sure that no one is left out.
“The goal of this is to make it so anybody can attend,” she said. “Anybody can come and be close to the balloons, experience the music, experience everything, and enjoy the beauty of the valley. There are no economic concerns, because it’s not, like, a $50 ticket. That’s just one of the give-backs to the community.”
Although there will be plenty to do throughout the festival, Murphy recommends a couple of not-to-miss times throughout the festival:
• 6:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16 — The first balloon launch will take place at 7 a.m., with breakfast served all three days from 7-11 a.m. All proceeds from breakfast will go to the Ogden Rescue Mission.
• 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16-17 — The purpose for showing up at 5:30 is two-fold. First, to be there early enough for dinner at The King’s Chicken — which Murphy calls “the best barbecue chicken even made” — before it sells out. And it always sells out, she says.
Of course, if it does, or you’re just not in the mood for chicken, Murphy points out that there are 16 other food vendors to choose from at the festival, offering everything from Greek and Peruvian to Mexican.
And the second reason to show up on Friday and Saturday evenings, according to Murphy, is to catch the balloon glow at 8:45 p.m.
“We’ll try to do evening launches (at 6:30 p.m.) as well, but they’re weather dependent, so they don’t always happen,” she said.
Murphy said there will also be some “great musical performers” in the evenings during the balloon glow.
Artist and craft booths and food vendors will be open from 4-10 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to noon Sunday.
No alcohol, pets or drones are allowed at the festival. There is also no parking at the park — or roadside parking — allowed. To accommodate the crowds, three satellite lots will offer free parking with free shuttle service to and from the festival.
The Eden satellite lots will include Valley Elementary School, 5821 E. 1900 North; Snowcrest Junior High School, 2755 N. State Route 162; and the Powder Mountain Shuttle Parking Lot, 2628 N. State Route 162.
For more information, visit ogdenvalleyballoonfestival.com.
Murphy also encourages patrons to visit the festival’s Facebook page for a chance to win a free balloon ride at the festival, from Rnetwork. The drawing ends Thursday, Aug. 15.
This year, in conjunction with the balloon festival, a new Digital Merchant Symposium will be held on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. The symposium features Michelle Robinson, of the bitcoin and blockchain community, who will educate the community on digital currency technology.
While the symposium is free, it requires registration, available at the balloon festival website.