Rising to the Occasion 

The Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic celebrates 29 years

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What began as just one piece of the now-defunct Boise River Fest is now the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic. Now in its 29th year, the event fills the Boise skies with hot air balloons, and people across the City of Trees rise early to see them float gently over the skyline. This year's festival will take place from Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Sunday, Sept. 1, at Ann Morrison Park. Each day has its own focus, from children and the media to the popular Night Glow event on Friday night.

Nearly three decades ago, the organizers of Boise River Fest charged Scott and Laurie Spencer with running its balloon component. Though the River Fest ultimately imploded, the Spencers' balloon classic has floated on as something that inspires kids and adults alike.

"It's a community event; something for families," Laurie said. "You can bring your grandma to it, your kids to it, put a blanket down and enjoy the balloons. It's especially for families and it brings smiles to people's faces."

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The Spencers are now in partnership with both Townsquare Media and CapEd Credit Union to put on the event. CapEd has entered its own balloon, the Read to Rise hot air balloon, named after a program that tracks summer reading in elementary school students. The schools with the most readaholic student bodies get a visit from the Read to Rise air balloon. Outside a few sponsorships, though, the classic event has remained virtually the same over the years.

The five-day event kicks off Wednesday with CapEd Kids Day, when children are given tethered rides aboard a hot air balloon from 6:45-8:45 a.m., when the balloons start to run low on air.

On Thursday, the media will be able to experience the balloons, and on Friday, "VIP Launch Day," the Classic will pepper the Boise skies with 50 hot air balloons—five times as many as were at the original Balloon Classic at the Boise River Fest. Though the event is weather-dependent, conditions are likely to be good for the 6:45 a.m. launch. Balloons are expected to land between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

Friday night is a real crowd-pleaser. Known as "Night Glow," hot air balloons perform a free, epic nighttime glow show for crowds in Ann Morrison Park from 6-10 p.m. Boise-based cover band Pilot Error will provide the music while vendors supply the food and drinks. The balloon pilots arrive by police escort at Ann Morrison Park, where children are invited to come dance on the field to music before the balloon launch.

"When it's dusk, we start the Night Glow, and all the balloons light up from the inside," Laurie said. "They look like Chinese lanterns and everything is choreographed to music."

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Saturday morning is the official launch for all pilots involved in the festival, with balloons departing between 6:45 and 8:30 a.m. Spectators are invited to stop by to take a morning hot air balloon ride for the spectacular views of Boise. This event is also weather-dependent, which is why the Sunday of the festival is dedicated to more flights and picture-taking opportunities in case any of the other days have had bad weather.

Also on Saturday is the Governor's Cup competition, where people can play games like port-a-potty bowling, as well as a game where balloon pilots try to drop bags onto an X on the field. The closest drop wins the pilot a cash prize and the Governor's Cup for Aviation Excellence.

Always dress for the morning:

· It usually doesn't take long for the temperatures to rise, but it is chilly first thing in the morning. Experienced balloon fans dress in layers so that they can shed clothing as needed.

Taking pictures:

· You've never seen the likes of our "ham" pilots before. They'll always take a moment to pose for a picture with you next to a balloon or basket; all you have to do is ask.

Dogs and balloon launches

· Do not bring dogs to the balloon launches.

Chairs:

· It's appropriate to bring a chair to Balloon Classic events, but remember—balloons on the ground are 20 times bigger when inflated, so make seating arrangements at a safe distance away from the action.

For your safety (and everyone else as well):

· Never step on a balloon. The material is delicate, and the slightest damage can pose a safety risk.

· Please listen carefully to any instructions given over the P.A. system.

· Refrain from smoking on the field. Propane fumes from balloons are heavier than air, and sink to the ground, posing an explosive risk.

Drones:

· Absolutely no drones will be allowed on the premises by regulation of the FAA.

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