The backdrop is set with a 5:30 sunrise over the Tetons. Propane burners by the dozen send out 15 foot columns of fire, and as the fabric canopies inflate in nostalgic wonder, it signs the commencement of the annual Teton Valley Hot Air Balloon Rally.
“This is an iconic event that has helped define Teton Valley,” said Teton Valley Balloon Rally Event Director Virginia Powell Symons.
Now in it’s 33rd year, the Fourth of July weekend rally celebrates the oldest form of manned flight. This is the primary reason Margaret Breffeilh and her “Hot Crew,” short for hot air balloon crew, continue to put on the event.
Since 1981, the event has been a hallmark of the valley. Originally, August “Auggie” Anheuser Busch III, former Chairman of Anheuser-Busch, was an avid balloon meister and began the celebration under the auspices of his corporate sponsorship. The Driggs Chamber of Commerce took over and funded the event as a not-for-profit entity with state grants, but stopped hosting in 2012.
In Feb. 2012, Symons asked Breffeilh to meet her for coffee for the first gathering of the Hot Crew. They called the pilots to inform them there would not be a rally this year, but all 14 of their old friends said rather they would camp out on Breffeilh’s front lawn and have the event pro bono. Coming from as far as Washington St., Illinois and Albuquerque, transporting 99,000 cubic feet of hot air balloon is not cheap.
Now in its third year under the guidance of the Hot Crew, the rally is still going. Although they admit that they cannot bring all of the amenities that Anheuser-Busch’s corporate sponsorships or the Chamber of Commerce’s grants could afford, they have expanded the event for countywide inclusion.
Starting Thursday, July 3, Downtown Driggs will host the Teton Science School’s booth presentation of the science behind ballooning, while, weather permitting, canopies will open under inflated balloons for tethered tours. Restaurants will open with specials while an art walk showcase and the Sons of Bannock play on Main Street. Event Director Virginia Powell Symons said they are also working on an outreach program with the high school art students and a landing zone map project that they’re working on in conjunction with the county.
With 12 pilots shooting off their burners 15-20 feet into the sky, Victor will celebrate the Fourth of July with a candlestick glow and block party along Birch Street.
However, the highlight is, of course, the balloons themselves, launching at 5:30 the mornings of July 3-6, for $275 per person advance tickets. However early, or expensive, the Hot Crew says it is well worth it.
“There’s a certain sense of calming that happens on a balloon and a certain sense of nature that cannot be replicated,” said Breffeilh.
Full details of the event are available on www.tetonvalleyballoonrally.com
via – Teton Valley News