In winter, our bright blue Mojave Desert skies fill with an exciting annual spectacle: the Pahrump Balloon Festival! From Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, more than 20 balloon teams will float above the Southern Nevada landscape in baskets suspended beneath colorful, beautiful envelopes. The weekend-long extravaganza brings thousands of visitors to Petrack Park for a host of activities.
With three days of aerial events to enjoy, we’ve assembled some handy tips for making the most of your festival experience. This includes thrilling dawn lift-offs and evening glow shows (where balloon pilots synchronize illuminating burner blasts to rousing songs).
1. Arrive Early
Very early! To watch teams inflate their balloons with heated air, arrive at Petrack Park by 6:00 a.m. sharp. As a bonus, you’ll be able to watch an unmanned, helium-filled weather balloon be launched. It tracks the direction and speed of prevailing winds, and helps determine if conditions are safe for human flight.
2. Dress Warmly
Sure, there are palm trees and plenty of year-round sunshine in Pahrump, but the desert can get downright chilly in winter, especially early mornings. A warm hat and pair of fingered winter gloves are a must. Also, dressing in layers is a good idea, so you can shed insulation as the day heats up. Sunglasses are perfect, as you’ll be looking up into the gleaming sky most of the day.
3. Bring Gear
Take in the view from the comfort of camp chairs. A camera is a must, too. You can use your smart phone to share the spectacle on social media as it happens, whether in photo or video. If you have a DSLR camera, a zoom lens comes in handy once the balloons rise high into the sky, especially for frame-worthy photos.
4. Join in the Action
While many Pahrump Balloon Festival guests are happy with just watching the majestic aircraft glide through the atmosphere, others like to volunteer on the ground. They assist crews in filling balloons with heated air and setting up baskets and lines. No experience is needed, though a signed release form is required, as is following pilot instructions. Sometimes—though it’s not guaranteed—volunteering can result in getting invited on a flight.
The Pahrump Balloon Festival is a full-fledged experience, morning through night. Beyond dawn and evening events, guests can purchase daytime tethered rides—they’re a perfect introduction to ballooning. You’re in the air, but not too far up. There’s also music, arts and crafts, food and drink, and a carnival. There’s even a rodeo!
Admission to the festival is free, with pre-sale tickets to the carnival available from the Pahrump Valley of Commerce at 775-727-5800. Tethered ride tickets are $10 and are available at the festival. A $25 VIP Field Pass includes up-and-close view of Friday and Saturday night’s events.