January 17th, 18th, and 19th, 2020, marks the 22nd Annual Bluff International Balloon Festival, one of the oldest hot-air celebrations in the Four Corners region. Flying the skies above Bluff provides some of the most breathtaking views of the Southwest.
Sponsored by the Business Owners of Bluff (BOB), this annual event attracts more than twenty balloons, with their pilots and crews, to drift over the incomparable red-rock landscape of southern San Juan County, Utah. A series of related events, including three morning lift-offs, Saturday night Glow-In, and featured evening activities, bring midwinter excitement to Bluff and the vicinity.
Friday evening, January 17, includes a Bluff Elementary School Benefit Navajo Taco Supper, where parents and teachers provide a delicious meal. Late Saturday afternoon in the Community Center is the popular Chili and Ice Cream Social from 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday will feature events at the Bluff Community Center, including an Art Market from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and musical performances by “Neon Native” and Sage Cornelius. Visitors will be able to walk around town and enjoy the opportunity to view the Glow-In, beginning at 5 p.m.
Many of the early morning lift-offs happen in the large Twin Rocks Trading Post parking area. Balloon crews can be found all around town laying out their balloons, connecting baskets, and firing up their gas jets to lift off. All flights depend upon weather conditions, wind directions, and other factors, with safety being the first concern for everyone.
Registration for pilots and sponsors takes place at the Bluff Community Center. Early morning pilot briefings begin at 7:15 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with flights over Bluff occurring shortly afterwards. On Sunday morning, crews will be briefed at 6:30 a.m. at the Community Center. From there, many of the balloon teams will form a caravan to drive twenty miles south of Bluff to the Valley of the Gods to fly over that spectacular landscape.
Photo by Rick Shafer