The 2021 Old West Balloon Fest
Old West Balloon Fest is Nebraska’s premier Hot Air Ballooning Event. With over 80 colorful hot air balloons filling the sky in 2021. Celebrating our sixth year flying in Western Nebraska!
Schedule of Events
|Opening Night Glow||TBA||6:00-9:00||Western Nebraska Community College|
|US Nationals Competition||TBA||Early Mornings||Various (Non-public)|
|Mass Ascension||TBA||5:30-9:30||Mitchell Airfield|
|Craft Fair||TBA||7:30-2:30||Center Street, Mitchell, NE|
|Closing Night Glow||TBA||5:30-9:00 (The “Glow” is at sunset)||Grasslands at Five Rocks|
Event passes for the 2021 Old West Balloon Fest cost $20 and are required for parking. Each pass is good for one carload.
US Nationals Competition
This event allows balloonists from all over the country to compete towards qualifying for the National Balloon Festival, held every year.
Night Glow at WNCC
Kick off the festival by visiting the opening night Glow at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, NE
Night Glow at Five Rocks
Bid a fond farewell to the 2021 Festival at the finale – the Glow at Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering Nebraska
Ascensions and Competition
The main event will feature over 30 balloons all taking off at once from the Mitchell Airfield followed by a flyover of 50 competition balloons!
Something For Everyone!
Old West weekend was celebrated in Scotts Bluff County during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Hot air balloonists would travel from nearby states to participate in the weekend festivities. Many people remember going to the event as a child and are now taking their children and grandchildren to Old West Balloon Fest. The location has changed but not the excitement of seeing beautiful balloons floating over Scotts Bluff County. The new location at Mitchell Airfield has given us the opportunity to host more hot air balloons and National Competition.
Old West Balloon Fest “Reinflated” was an idea that came about when Scotts Bluff tourism and a couple of ambitious ladies put together a plan to bring back the popular event. Our first year, 2015 was well attended with 18 hot air balloons flying the valley. In subsequent years, the festival only grew, not only in number of hot air balloons, but people flocking to watch the spectacle. In 2018 the festival bid to host US National Hot Air ballooning championships. We were awarded the championships for three years.
The first US Nationals competition in 2019 was a showstopper! 50 Pilots from 25 different states participated in the championship competition, and 30 Old West Balloon Fest pilots joined them in the last weekend of the event. We could not hold the championships in 2020 due to Covid19, but we still put on a show with 30 hot air balloonists socially distancing and the public able to view from their car or in person. We are looking forward to hosting 50 US Nationals pilots and 30 Old West Balloon Fest pilots for 2021.
Mass Ascension Day One
Hot Air Balloon Competition is a sport that requires skill utilizing the pilot’s knowledge of their aircraft, how to maneuver it through layers of wind, and being able to navigate using only wind direction. Understanding competition is a matter of learning the rules and language of different terms for tasks given. Competition is not a “race” but precision flying to a target. There are usually 6-7 tasks called each morning for National’s competition. This means that the pilot must navigate their balloon to each target (some of them are virtually located in the sky) and either fly through the target or if the target is located on the ground (a big X or triangle) they throw a weighted bag filled with 2 oz. of sand on the target. The closest to the center of the X or triangle wins that target. Then they fly onto the next target hoping the winds have not changed and repeat the process. They may win one target and miss three others or score poorly on several targets. The champion is the pilot with the most points at the end of the week. Hard targets will be located on Mitchell Airfield on Friday and Saturday of the competition. Old West Balloon Fest pilots participate in a mass ascension and then the targets are put out for the national’s pilots to swoop in and score. A must see for those who want an up close and personal view of the final two days of competition.